Tuesday, March 12, 2013

on being stuck

One winter during high school, when I was at a weekend retreat in the mountains with my church youth group, our two fifteen-passenger vans got stuck at the bottom of an icy hill. It had snowed before our trip that weekend, and temperatures stayed cold, which meant that the weather was perfect, really. Perfect for a bunch of high schoolers to get in snow ball fights and go ice skating and then warm up by a fire with hot chocolate and card games. But on our way to the ice-covered lake, those two monstrous vans, filled with us teenagers, skidded down a hill. And when our leaders tried to drive them back up the hill, the wheels just turned over and over in the same spot on the icy road.

I remember freaking out. At the time, I was pretty scared and unresourceful about most things out of my comfort zone, so I couldn't imagine how we'd get up that hill again. Our leaders organized us to gather brush and sticks from the surrounding forest, so while we traipsed around the woods I held back tears and prayed desperate silent prayers that we wouldn't end up dead at the bottom of a hill in the Poconos.

One of my most irrational fears is being stuck. It keeps me moving. I like a plan, I like to know what's next, and I like some forward movement, or at least the appearance of it. On a related note, I can't stand running on a treadmill - it's like a human hamster wheel, all that work to stay in the same place. I usually crowd the front of the machine and end up almost tripping myself that way. Sometimes I wonder if this is a metaphor for life, but then I remember that running outside is the more natural habit, and that moving forward is a good thing.

But then I also need to remember that getting stuck is almost always temporary, and usually comes with some growth (and a good story).

My pastor sometimes talks about how quantum physics is a metaphor for our lives. The idea is that atoms often stay in the same place while energy builds, and then all at once are able to make a definable leap to another state. So they might look inert, or stuck, but something is building that helps them move up.

I guess that's sort of what happened that afternoon at the bottom of that hill. Eventually we gathered enough brush to put under the wheels, so that with the weight of us inside and some of the men pushing from behind, we got enough traction and somehow moved those huge vans up an icy hill. We didn't go ice skating that afternoon, but we did get our hot chocolate back at the cabin. And a good story to tell.

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