The school auditorium smelled of brand new carpet and buzzed with the energy of a hundred unjaded teenagers. My sister-in-law and I sat in the row furthest back, because even though we came for the presentation on career tracks, school spirit, blah, blah, blah, we really came to whisper back and forth. We listened to the school rules and both of us agreed we were glad to be adults. We talked about our summers, our kids, our appreciation for vacations AND routines. Somehow, the conversation turned to being stuck – the physical kind – quickly escalating into psychological stuckness, a stuckness mothers of teenagers know very well.
I’ve had many a conversation with a teenager in a slump. I ask what’s wrong and they don’t know. I encourage them to identify the stuckness because it’s the only way to find their spot on the map of unfamiliar territory. They groan. I ask what they want and a litany of what they don’t want erupts.
I assure them ruminating on solutions will eventually help them ‘see’ a path out. Then I hope for the best. One day, the teenager organizes their closet, unloads their dresser, fills half a dozen trash bags with toys, knick knacks, and clothing that no longer suits them, and magically, they come unstuck.
My sister-in-law confirmed she’d witnessed this unsticking process with her own kids as well and we both agreed the physical process of cleaning does wonders for unraveling mental and emotional stickiness. But surely there was a more defined process for coming unstuck. We decided an acronym might help us, and quite possibly, help all of humanity. (We were solving the world’s problems that day.) Being the child of a teacher and a preacher, I knew I was genetically wired for creating acronyms, so there in the back of the high school auditorium, during a PowerPoint presentation on Chromebooks, STUCK was born:
Symbolically, Seriously, Systematically, or Systemically
Constraints, Conflicts, or Comparisons of
Knowledge, Kinesthetics, Keeps, or Kindness
Yes, friend, this acronym is yours to use freely and often. Is it wordy? Sure. Complex? Clearly. But one thing is for certain – this acronym’s multitude of combinations will sum up your ‘stuck’.
For example, I’ve been stuck in my workout routine, or to say it better, I’ve been procrastinating because I’m bored with my home gym options. I was Symbolically Trapped Under Conflicts of Kinesthetics, I guess, so I rejoined my gym and I’m back to enjoying fitness classes. I named my stuck issue so I could tame it and move toward a better sense of wellbeing. My sister-in-law was right – an acronym helps.
But I had an epiphany shortly after my Ash Wednesday post. What about the stuck places that are intended for me, the times when I’m Spiritually Tested, Uniquely Conditioned – Knowingly? This is the stuck that scares me most, and I have to admit, moving in faith is an attractive topic because the opposite – sitting still in my faith because I must – is so absolutely frustrating, so contrary to the adventure I picture faith to be.
I savor the Bible stories of courage and action. I cringe through the stories where years pass, adversity comes, and plans go unfulfilled. But just as in the stories of Joseph, Hannah, David, Job, and the many people healed by Jesus in the gospels, ‘stuck’ points have a purpose on the timeline. These are the points where patience gives way to fully surrendered trust. These stories of patience aren’t indicators of tepid faith, but faith on fire.
When grief, loss, upheaval, and suffering come, when conditions are out of my control and problems won’t budge, when there are closed doors and dead ends, and I simply cannot move – how do I move in faith? By actively trusting, patiently waiting, expectantly watching, and firmly relying on God to move. I move my lips in prayer and make it my habit. I do what I can, accept what is, and continue hoping. I stay awake, alert, and grateful, so that when the ground moves under my feet, I’m ready.
What’s your stuck look like? Maybe it’s something you can solve on your own and a long walk or closet purging session will bring your ‘aha’ moment. Maybe it’s something outside your limits and you’re familiar with prayers so deep, you never say a word. Maybe it’s unclear if you’re in a procrastinating place or a patience place. Answering the following questions often helps me identify my sticking points and the shifts I need to make. Praying through the questions helps me even more.
What am I thinking? (What’s playing on a loop in my mind?)
What am I feeling? (What emotions are being fueled by my mindset? What mindset is fueling my emotions?)
What am I doing – behaviors, actions, patterns? (Are they coping, numbing, avoidant?)
What am I praying?