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.