Are you stuck in a rut?
We are designed for change and development, and stagnation is a dangerous thing. It’s dangerous precisely because we settle into our condition (like the car above).There’s a line in Shawshank Redemption that comes to mind. One prisoner says to another: “These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them.”
“Get busy living or get busy dying.” It’s as serious as that.
Is that what was happening In Deuteronomy? It starts with that statement about the danger of stagnation: “You have stayed at this mountain long enough.” They had been wandering around the desert for forty years and somehow they had gotten used to it.
It’s so hard to break out of the hamster-wheel of stuckness.In fact, it’s like that tyre spinning in the mud, when constant effort simply makes it more entrenched.
As human beings, we seem hard-wired for persistence and push, which may be helpful when life is going well, but when we are not sure where to go and what to do next create that hamster-wheel.
It’s only about 420 kilometres from Cairo to Jerusalem, you know. A nine-hour car trip at most. But somehow they had lost their enthusiasm for the journey. They had forgotten the promise, had become fearful of the difficulties ahead and made do with second-best. A one-month march had become a forty-year lifestyle.
In Pilgrim’s Progress there is a scene at a place called the Hill Difficulty, and Pilgrim is slowly plodding his way upwards. In the middle of the hill, was a small grotto off to the side, called the Pleasant Arbour. It was put there by God for the refreshment of weary travelers. Pilgrim stops trekking up the steep hill, and turns into it for a few moments to refresh himself, but winds up sleeping there much longer than he intended
Sometimes in our Christian walk, a little break may turn into years of lethargy. “You’ve been round this mountain too long.” So how do you get clear of a sticky mind-set? Here’s a few ideas:
First, Assess your regrets
It’s like drawing a map-reference. Where exactly am I now? Where have I come from? Paul encouraged young Christian believers to “Have a sane estimate” of themselves. Similarly, it’s good to attempt an objective appraisal of where you are right now.
As you consider where you have come from, you don’t indulge in those regrets but look positively at what you’ve learnt. Defelop a big-picture analysis. The psych-speak for this is counterfactual thinking. That is simply the process of constructively assessing how something might have happened, asking the question, “What might I have done?” It prompts a new and empowering resolve: “When X happens (or doesn’t happen), I will do Y.”
But Deuteronomy tells you the next step quite clearly. Whatever may be contained inyour past, mistakes and all, there is a time to move on.
Second, Understand Your Comfort Zone
To get out of your rut, understand what keeps you in it. The Jews in their wilderness wanderings came to a place called Elim, with an abundance of food and water.
I#m pretty sure that it is much more difficult to break camp when you’re in Elim.The Bible describes twelve springs and seventy palm trees – a parable of abundance! But perhaps Elim is the most dangerous place in our journey. It is so easy to mistake it for the Promised Land itself. We can become too comfortable there. We don’t want to leave! So we settle down when God wants us to break camp and move to the next place.
The problem is that there is a hike between here and there, and it usually is an uphill hike. So rather that make that uphill hike, we settle for the comfortable and the familiar.
But is where you are now a milestone or a destination?Don’t confuse the two.There is territory to occupy (and this isn’t it).
Third, Set Attainable Goals
Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the amount of change required to get out of a rut, and that keeps us in it. To solve this, set manageable interim goals. Be mindful that we tend to exaggerate our abilities or wrongly attribute failure to circumstances beyond our control. Be ruthlessly realistic about how your talents match up with the goal you set.
I honestly believe that God wants you to put your back into life. That’s why you are so gifted, so special, so loaded with ideas. You are the very last person who should get caught in the old stagnation trick. You just have so much going for you!
But remember that ultimately it is God who sets the goals and God who sees you through. The goal is a whole land-sized Promise.
So are we to go in against the odds? Going into the promise sounds very difficult. “Don’t be afraid! The Lord your God is going before you. He will fight for you just as you saw him do in Egypt.” (Deut 1:30)
God gives us his promise. Then we have to respond in trusting obedience. But he also promises that when we respond, he will go BEFORE us. Maybe it’s like going into a boxing ring to fight a champion, but not worrying because Mohammed Ali is going in first to soften him up.
The passage in Deuteronomy is full of the word “Go.” It’s a characterisitc descriptor of the People of God. Adam was told “go forth and multiply.” Jesus told us to “go into all the world.” And a hundred prophets in between testified to a sending God. It’s scary but it’s commanded. Go and I AM will be with you.
There is a time to move on
There is territory to occupy
There is a promise to be fulfilled.