“Please. Just don’t give up on Jesus” the Mennonite minister begged through tears after his son confided in him that he was gay. That was the father’s biggest concern: don’t give up on Jesus. Those words reverberated through my mind and my heart for weeks. No matter what changes, what is lost, what is found: please don’t give up on Jesus.
Nothing quite so dramatic is going on in my own life, but I feel those fatherly words directed towards me these days. But that’s my hangup I think--there’s nothing dramatic or climactic happening. It’s simply the grind of everyday life that has me feeling lost, dried up, uninspired and pining away for the passion of past days.
I’ve hit dry spells before, but I’ve reacted with either of two extreme responses: 1. Strive strive strive. Make it happen. Claw your way to a spiritual high. Crank the music, sing the songs, read the carefully selected passages. Make it. Then the other option is 2. Don’t do something just to be doing something. It’s wrong to do something just to check boxes off my daily to do list (even though it was the right thing when my heart was in it). I’ll wait until something comes to me, until God makes something jump out at me and wake me up.
Want to know which one jolted me out of my rut and renewed my passion?
Neither. Sorry to burst your bubble, neither option has worked out well for me. One is reduced down to a gospel of good works and the other is self serving and lazy. But what does work? Do I just spiritually go to sleep? Take a little creativity nap while I’m at it too?
But there it is again, “Please, just don’t give up on Jesus.”
There’s a sweetness in this simple request. We grow up singing “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” I’ve trusted him in valley after valley, so maybe the big life changing answer I’m looking for is that I should just stick with it. Maybe it’s not a matter of “finding what works” as much as it is staying the course. If he was good in the broken, in the death, in the anger--wouldn’t he be just as good when I’m bored, or tired, or feeling unimaginative. Can’t I trust that he desires for me to have a robust and passionate life as much as I do?
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11
When I was reading the notes in my ESV study bible that go along with this passage the explanation for the word “knock” caught my attention: “Knock suggests perseverance. Disciples are to persist in prayer, confident that their Father will provide whatever is best for them, according to his sovereign, gracious will” (ESV Study Bible online).
Whatever is best for them.
When we talk to people who are engaged or recently married about the lessons we learned along the way, I always talk about how important it was for us to learn to be bored together. Being long distance for most of our dating relationship, we had some amazing trips to see each other. Since Austin was traveling all over the U.S. we got to see some amazing places together when I would visit. Because we would go a month or two between visits the passion was HIGH in like every second of every minute together. There was basically a beautiful soundtrack playing from the moment we started making out in the airport (Ok--it’s fine, we ended up married so just hush) until the very last tearful goodbye at that same airport at the end of the trip. All we knew was the epic highs, we needed to learn how to fight over mundane things. Are we sticking with water or splurging for coke at lunch, what snacks should we buy at the store, and should we leave now or in half an hour for that party (we literally almost broke up over this one, that’s real)?
The point is, being bored and doing old ho-hum things together is not romantic or exciting but it was totally the best thing to prepare us for a life together. And when I think about that--maybe being “bored” or in a rut isn’t a sign of a spiritual slump….maybe it’s just a part of life. And if I’m going to be spending eternity in a relationship with God then maybe learning how to cope with the daily grind and dried up creativity is an important part of this relationship too.
Maybe the rut isn’t a sign of a problem, but a new way to learn how to trust. Maybe those words resonated with me because right now the Father is saying to me “Please, just don’t give up on Jesus because you’re bored. Please, just don’t give up on Jesus because you aren’t feeling your most creative. Please, just don’t give up on Jesus because the pick up lines are eating your soul.”
So you know what I’ve been doing? I’ve been opening up my computer and reading the Advent Study and praying for people I care about and asking God every single day to pull me out of this rut and connect my emotions to my worship. And you know what, slowly and surely I’m waking up a little more each day. It isn’t a jolt, it’s an unfolding to more grace when I trust in this rut. Because each day--He is good and each day He loves me and my salvation is secure.
And this slow process of trust, it’s much sweeter than wondering to my own solution and my own answers. It’s not glamorous and not going to go viral, but I think maybe you might know this rut-place too. I think maybe this is something we need to talk about more--the daily grind is where we live, and it’s where we’ll grow if we choose to trust...especially when the passion runs dry.