Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Devotions From the Rut

My last post mentioned being in a type of spiritual rut.

    That's the low, carved-out place in the road, the easiest place for the wheel to fall into. I'm picturing a grey-brown side road in the country, rather muddy, trees close on each side, no gravel to speak of, and you're on your bike bumping along the rough middle when the tire slips into the deep rut on one side. It feels confined and hard to balance, but you stay there, hoping a chance will come to pull out of it. If not, you know you'll have to dig in and pedal hard, wrestle the handlebars and push the bike out with gritted teeth and determined effort.

That's the way it is.
Not a perfect analogy, but it works.
The trouble with ruts is you know you can't stay there too long. The close sides mean that if there is something ahead, if you hit a rock or a root or a bend in the road, you're hooped.
I'm still on the road, but how did I get in this rut? I wasn't paying attention. I didn't really care. It just happened.
And spiritual ruts are part of the journey, sometimes. I don't always feel close to God, I know that. I've been here before. He's still there, but my angle of looking at Him is different. Sometimes shadows pass before, or obstacles, or I don't want to look.
 I'm upset, I'm sad, I'm angry.....apathetic......any of those will lower my gaze.
The world is noisy; I was watching it and got distracted.
My troubles are many; I was pondering them or blinded by their intensity and turned away.
The good news is,
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the right road.
"Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage."  Psalm 84:5

I'm not turning off the road. What a waste of time I know that to be! Not going to pretend I'm having the time of my life though; it's a lot of uphill. I'm tired and the bumps are jarring and I'd prefer to jump off the bike and throw it in the creek, yelling like a savage.
"All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes." 
"I wait for You, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God. For I said, 'Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.'"    Psalm 38:9-10, 15-16
I haven't made much progress this year, which is discouraging. I haven't become amazing and conquered all my fears. Falling down a lot of times, I have scratches and bruises that hurt and make me feel resentful. Bitterness can derail a journey faster than anything.
I think some people shake their head at Christians because we seem so attached to our little circles, our work at church, our way of life. We've found a nice, comfortable perch on which to look down at the rest of the world. People can see it's not all that genuine, at times, just comfortable. We don't talk about Jesus much. He's there in the background, smiling approvingly at our efforts, our tidy lives. At least that is the impression we have.

 I don't know many Christians who are open about their actual struggles; it is harder than it might seem to be honest and open. One reason is the smugness of other Christians who enjoy gossip and the good feeling they get when someone else is having a tough time. Another reason is human nature - we've learned to put our best foot forward. "I'm fine, thanks, just look at my Jesus bumper stickers!"
                                                  *       *       *     

The father of the demon-possessed child said to Jesus, "I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24 This has been called the foundation prayer of faith. He wants desperately to  know for absolute sure, to feel like he believes. He's humble enough to admit he does not.
True, deep commitment....can it exist with mental reservations? Seems so.

There needs to be space for doubt in the church. "You know what? I just don't get it" has got to be allowed. Swallowing doctrine and dogma hook, line and sinker can make a bunch of pretty dead fish. Think about it. Is blind acceptance real faith? Doubt has been a part of the Christian walk for thousands of generations of true saints.

Doubt can be used as an excuse for endless non-commitment. This is a different journey. This is an excuse to do nothing and look pretty good doing it.

Help my unbelief.

I continue to pedal up the rutted, pocked and slippery road, spattered with mud and looking less-than-lovely. I'm gathering strength from His Spirit within, from His words, His songs.

I'm really glad to be on this road. This is the road that leads home.

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."   Hebrews 12:28-29


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