Have you ever had this experience while reading a book?
You’re reading along and then get stuck on one particular page. Maybe you weren’t paying close enough attention. But somehow, suddenly it seems like you don’t have a clue about what you just read?
Happens to me a lot. So, I go back and read the page over, trying to concentrate this time. Nope. Makes even less sense. I try slowing down, reading it word for word and sounding out each word in my mind (the way I was told NOT to read in school). But that makes even less sense to me and the connecting sentences and meanings all fall apart!
I think our lives can be like that – we get stuck on a page in our story. And no matter how many tries at it, it’s just not connecting, not making sense. We feel like something didn’t get done, we missed something and just can’t get it right. Maybe we left something undone. And no matter how many tries at it, or how many ruminations over it, it still isn’t making sense. It still isn’t “reading” the way we feel the story ought to read.
A lot of folks get stuck like this, in big and small ways. Maybe the challenge is that we feel if we keep working at it, keep hanging on to it and running it through our minds, we’ll figure it out eventually and come up with a better spin on what’s happening. Or maybe we stay stuck because frustration and anxiety start feeling normal, habitual. Or perhaps we feel a little guilty or ashamed at how much we’ve actually struggled with this thing, this confusing chapter in our lives, and the guilt starts to feel deserved.
I was talking with a friend the other day about this and he asked, “So, you know what I do when I get stuck on a page and can’t seem to figure out what’s happening?”
“Throw the book across the room!” I answered cathartically.
He smiled, “I turn the page.” This seemed both a little simplistic and obvious. “What, you just give up?” I quipped.
“Not at all,” he adds. “I turn the page and keep reading. The story doesn’t have to make sense all the time. I just have to stay committed, engaged. I know there will be interesting characters and curious twists to come. And I’m missing out on all of that by demanding that something has to make sense. Besides, the further I read along, the more illumination and the more likely it will make sense looking back on it.”
Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created the problem.” Sometimes you just have to clear the mind, let it go and keep moving.
Curiously, the Apostle Paul tells folks in the early Church community in Rome something very similar, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for God. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your life that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on the presence of God in our midst. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” (Romans 12: 1-2, The Message)
In the eleven:eleven celebration this Sunday, we’re continuing our series on “Life – the Exquisite Risk” and looking at what it means to live an authentic, engaged life with God and one another. For the next three weeks we will explore the meaning of enthusiasm, ecstasy and empathy as three meaningful ways we are invited to be in right relationship with ourselves, with the Creator and with all of Creation.
I hope to see you there!