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Surviving Stuck

God couldn't have used a more obvious analogy to beat some truth into my head.

"Shoot," I said under my breath as I slid my daughter off my hip, jiggled the fishing pole into a better position, and maneuvered the stroller out of the way. I gave the bathroom door another hard shove with my shoulder. Nothing. "What a perfect end to this summer," I huffed. "Babygirl, looks like we're stuck in the loo."

My three-year-old daughter, Greta, looked up at me with a bit of panic, and my pinched face did nothing to calm her. It wasn't that I thought we'd never escape (my husband and older son knew where we were). It was just that this stuck feeling, this sensation of my life going nowhere fast, which had dogged me all summer, had come along on this vacation and morphed from feeling to reality, trapping me, Greta, and my baby, Fredrik, in the bathroom on Anderson's pier in Ephraim, Wisconsin.

The stuckiness, as I'd begun to call the feeling, first showed up in early summer after potty training Greta. While I was thrilled to have her out of diapers, getting two preschoolers to "go" before leaving the house only to have one of them need to go "for real this time!" after getting buckled into their car seats made me batty. Every trip to the pool, outing to Grandma's, and "quick run" to Target seemed to get stuck before it began.

Then stuckiness showed up in my work. Editing and writing projects—things I'd pour my energy, heart, and mind into—would get jammed up in ways that had never happened before and seemed beyond my control to unstick. While I bounded with creativity and enthusiasm, it seemed at every idea, someone would say, "Great! But let's hold off."

And then the stuckiness got hold of my marriage. Just as my husband and I were getting back into the relationship groove after having our third child in five years, we hit some rough terrain and were having trouble pressing through it. No doubt my attitude, which was stuck in bad, tired, and martyr, didn't help.

And now this: Stuck in the bathroom. Stuck in self-pity. But more importantly, stuck with two little kids who were getting antsy to get out. So I took deep breaths, smiled my best "I'm okay/you're okay" smile at my kids, and then tried the door again. This time I added a kick with my Croc. And … it opened.

Suddenly unstuck!

As Greta and I gasped and squealed in delight, rejoicing in our freedom, I looked out at what was before us: the view off Anderson's pier. My jaw dropped. The waves sparkled under the sun, broken only by dots of bright white sails and deep green islands. It was how I imagine heaven.

So I grabbed Greta's hand, twirled the stroller out of the bathroom, and squatted beside my kids so we could take it in together. "Good thing we got stuck. We might've missed this."

As I said those words, God echoed them into my heart—and I got it. I understood stuckiness. While we'd been at this pier all day, looking at this same view, during those hours, it got lost in the chaos of worming hooks, keeping the kids from tumbling into the water, rocking Fredrik in his stroller, stopping Greta from terrorizing the seagulls, and of course, running to the bathroom. But in this moment—after getting unstuck—I could savor this view, enhanced by new freedom. God couldn't have used a more obvious analogy to beat some truth into my head. God uses stuckiness to give us focus, grow us, shape us, and recharge us.

Even since that experience, these sticky seasons—which I recognize when my wheels spin but I go nowhere fast or I push without making a dent—still frustrate me at first. But I've learned a better technique for getting through: stop spinning, stop pushing, stop trying to get unstuck. Instead breathe in, breathe out, and wait—on God.

Granted, easier typed than done. This runs contrary to our instincts (especially when we're stuck in a smelly bathroom!). And yet, what a relief it is when we get stuck (in rough patches in our marriages or in boring seasons at work or dry spells in our spiritual life) to settle ourselves down (breathe) and wonder at why God keeps us stuck, how he'll get us out, and what he's got waiting. It sure beats burning up energy (when God want us to rest) and causing panic (when God wants us at peace). And it definitely beats missing out on the view from when we're suddenly unstuck.  

Caryn Rivadeneira is a Kyria regular contributor and managing editor of the Gifted for Leadership blog. She is author of Mama's Got a Fake ID (WaterBrook Press). www.carynrivadeneira.com. www.mommyrevolution.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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