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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

stuck

A cross-stitched phrase hung on the narrow wall between the kitchen and dining room when I was a child.  

When God closes a door, He opens a window, 

the threads proclaimed in country blue.  Above the words, sat a sweet little bird looking out the window. 
I’ve thought about that short phrase a lot over the last few years.
Doors close a lot in life.  When we are the one initiating the closing, the change of a new direction can be exciting, but when it is a God-initiated closed door we might spend quite some time fumbling around for a window or even a light switch.    
It gets real when we feel that we're on the wrong side of a closed door--caught in between the shutting of the door and the opening of the window.  Stuck.

Like the time I chased my sister outside with not so great timing--the screen door latching closed behind me at the same time my sister slammed the front door, causing me to be what we call in the South “stuck between a rock and a hard place”…or more fittingly, “stuck between two shut doors.” The space was so tight that I couldn’t move my arms to open either unlocked door. Stuck.

Now before you ask if this was possible, I should add that it was before twinkies and kool-aid became the staples of my adolescent diet.

For years, I assumed when God closed a door, He already had a window, or preferably another door, wide open, waiting on us.  

Surely He wouldn’t cause us to slow down and be still; surely “be still” means to still your mind in chaos, not your actual body or life or calendar; surely He would want us to go from one activity, ministry, or commitment to the next.  He’s not the God of long pauses but of blazing forward, right?

Oh goodness, what kool-aid was I drinking?  While there are times when God seamlessly leads us from one thing to another, the busyness that comes from activity, especially good activity, can lead us to function on autopilot.   

We confuse the world we see, which tells that growth, even spiritual growth, means bigger and better—like climbing a ladder and at the top:“ta da…look at what I’ve become…look at this shiny life of significance that God has blessed me with,” with the kingdom that is often unseen—that there is no ladder in the Kingdom of God and if there is, it is either to climb down or lay on its side as a bridge.   Phrases like, He must become greater, I must become less, become sweet sentiments.   Becoming less is replaced with increasing your influence.  

When we feel stuck, there is a great deal of wrestling that takes place.  We wrestle with accepting our circumstances.  We wrestle with God and His will because it is so different than ours. We wrestle with our own inner sin and weakness that was easily ignored during busy seasons but is glaring when life is still. It's understandable why we often avoid these pauses like strep throat. 

But when we are stuck, God shows that walking with Him is more about the walking with Him and less about a glittery arrival, as Brennan Manning called it.

When we are stuck, we learn more about His character and His heart toward our broken world and  toward us, His children.  When our hands are empty and not full of activity or accomplishment, when the “with-ness” of God becomes the one remaining thing, when we feel we have nothing to “offer” or hold up for his approval, we are left with the truth that His acceptance, love, and presence depend entirely upon our Jesus and not even a tad on us. 


 I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  Psalm 131:2  

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