When our van got stuck in the snow years ago, it overheated and caught on fire when I tried to get it unstuck. In hindsight, I should have just waited for the tow truck my husband went to call. Not one of my better decisions.
Stuck in traffic. Stuck in the mud (or snow). Stuck in a rut.
Doesn’t matter what kind of stuck. Frustration grows the longer I’m stuck, whether mentally, physically, or spiritually. The more frustrated I become, the less patience I have, and the more stuck I feel.
Being stuck gets my emotions all riled up, and I simply become unable to make good decisions. Until the frustration, impatience, and anger abate, I feel lost in an endless maze of emotions. So, feeling stuck too easily turns into more like being trapped unless I find a way to overcome the emotions and get unstuck.
For this reason, my first step when I feel stuck is to get out from under out-of-control emotions. Sometimes this means simply walking away from the situation if possible and letting the emotions abate. When physical space can’t happen, I try creating mental space through praying, reading, singing… whatever gets my mind off how I feel, which is rarely a good lens for handling a situation well.
After my emotions fade, I can see more clearly and am able to assess the situation and consider the root cause. I ask myself, “Why did I get stuck in the first place?” Sometimes, the cause is simply a wrong turn. Other times, being stuck serves as a warning from my subconscious (i.e., discernment from the Holy Spirit) alerting me to a problem I might not recognize on my own.
With our van incident, while a wrong turn led us to getting stuck, and my impatience resulted in a significantly worse situation, the whole incident alerted us to a problem with the vehicle’s electrical system. In this case, we just lost the van, and no one was hurt. Had this particular situation not happened, we might have learned about the recall through a much worse scenario.
Once we have a better idea of what caused us to become stuck, we can make the best choice for how to wisely work through the problem. If a wrong turn is the cause, the best solution is usually to just get back on the right path. Sometimes this means getting help, and sometimes this means backtracking. Either way, simply accepting the loss — and apologizing if needed — is often the best way to get unstuck.
In the past when I’ve felt stuck, I’ve generally made one of two bad choices for dealing with being stuck. Sometimes, I got stubborn and pushed (forced my way) through to progress. Other times, I did nothing and simply wallowed in my doldrums. Both of these approaches ended the same way: chronic stuckness from never actually dealing with the root cause.
The Best Adjustments
Over the years, I’ve learned that being stuck is not necessarily a bad thing. It brings me to a standstill, to a place where I am unable to proceed or go back, and that makes me stop and think. When I get out from under my emotions and find the root cause, I also discover needed adjustments I would not have seen had I not gotten stuck.
Getting stuck never feels good, regardless of the details. Yet when we realize that the best adjustments in our lives often come because we get stuck, we see the benefit to this unavoidable waiting. We begin to understand that progress often comes with forced course corrections largely because we often don’t stop to look for them otherwise.