Solving Stuckness

I’m trying to be a writer.

I get excited about an idea, write a few sentences, form a couple of paragraphs, and then, more often than not, I get stuck. I lose the ability to formulate sentences that, when strung together, make a rational, coherent point. On the rare occasion that I complete a draft and return to it at a later date, I seldom think the words on the page are as good as I originally thought. Just the thought of revision makes me feel stuck all over again.

Being stuck is uncomfortable. Perhaps that’s why I look quickly for an escape route. I’ll send out a few emails, scroll through my Twitter feed, or catch up with what’s happening on Facebook. In one such stuck moment last week, I learned via Facebook that my nephew, who joined the Navy last year, married his high school sweetheart. Congratulations! Good for them. But I’m still stuck.

Escaping seldom solves stuckness.

My newly-married nephew aspires to become a Navy SEAL. Navy SEALs are the highest paid, most revered enlisted military operators for good reason. Less than 6% of the 40,000 annual recruits meet the rigorous physical, mental, and emotional standards to become SEALS. Navy SEALS test their ability to deal with stuckness in an unusual way. It’s called “drown-proofing.” Cadets have their feet bound together, their hands tied behind their back, and are then dumped into the deep end of a pool. Their one-and-only job is to survive for five minutes.

The key to survival is paradoxical: the more you struggle to keep your head above water, the more likely you are to sink. The secret to drown-proofing is for the cadet to allow themselves to sink to the bottom of the pool, lightly push themselves off the pool floor, and let their momentum carry them to the surface. After a quick breath of air, the process is repeated until the five minutes are complete. Survival is not about the strength, endurance, or swimming ability they’ve worked so hard to develop. Instead, it’s their ability to just be.

Human instinct is to fight, to try and untie whatever is binding us, to take control, and to do. But sometimes it’s better to do nothing and just be. Being and doing are clearly interrelated; it’s the order that’s critical. What we do should flow out of who we are, not the other way around. Faithful followers of Jesus live in the tension of the both/and nature of being and doing. Doing without being leads to stress and anxiety. Being without doing leads to idealism and inaction. Doing with being leads to wisdom. Absent the amalgamation of being and doing, our efforts for His Kingdom will be powered by self rather than Spirit. 

Shadow Boxing

We all have what the famed Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called our “shadow” – those parts of ourselves of which we are either ignorant or choosing to hide. Once we realize that these shadows hinder our ability to minister, we can choose to engage what Richard Rohr describes as “shadowboxing.” So how do you shadowbox? 

One way is to pay attention to where you see repeated negative patterns in your life both in the things you do and avoid doing. Take time to consider what might be the underlying cause(s) of these negative patterns and examine the spiritual formation practices that can assist you in overcoming them through the Spirit. I try and pay special attention to those people, comments, and situations that trigger over-reaction in me. Why do I have a particular patterned respond? What are the things that are complicit in my over reaction? Do they occur at a specific time of the day/week? Am I tired or hungry or stressed or something else completely? 

The important part is engaging in the process so as to better identify those things that contribute to your over reaction. From there you can assemble a plan that will allow you to partner with the Spirit to discover a better way forward.

Stewarding Energy and Momentum

The best way to build momentum is to seize opportunities as they appear because quick turnaround tends to build momentum.

Maybe a physics reference might be helpful in our understanding. If you remember anything from your high school physics class, you undoubtedly recall that P = MV is the equation used to discover the moment of an object. Momentum = mass x velocity. Mass if often misunderstood to be about size. Size is actually better measured in volume. Mass is about weight. More mass equals greater potential impact. Momentum is created when mass is fueled by velocity. But speed and velocity are often confused. 

Speed refers to the rate at which an object covers distance. A fast-moving object has a high speed and covers a large distance in a period of time; a slow-moving object has a slow speed and covers a small distance in a period of time. Simply stated, speed has no directional component. It is simply how fast something is moving. Velocity is different. 

Velocity is directionally aware. In other words, velocity is the rate at which an object changes its position. Imagine someone running in place. While this may result in a frenzy of activity, it would result in zero velocity. Every step would need to go into moving that person further from where they started for it to be velocity. It’s mass, coupled with speed and direction, that creates momentum. 

Now let’s draw some parallels for the church. 

In the church, mass equals people. Without people, there is no momentum. Mass is a critical component of momentum. We want to increase our mass not for the sake of numbers alone, but for the sake of impact. But mass, as important as it is, will not create momentum on its own. We also need velocity – speed moving in a common direction. That’s why a clear, concise and actionable mission and vision statements are so important. Because when people (mass) move together under God in a common direction (velocity) momentum is developed. 

The choice is simple. We can go a million miles an hour in a frenzy of programs and activity and get nowhere, or we can put our collective mass behind a common direction and create some momentum. 

Perhaps that is what the author of Hebrews was trying to communicate in Hebrews 12:12-13. I love how Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message translation: “So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.” 

Do you want to create momentum? Take a steady grip with tired hands, a firm stance on shaky legs, mark out a straight path for your feet, and then GO FOR IT!