If you've owned a car in your life, the following internal discussion makes sense to you:
The car sounds like it's running a little harder than normal. Hmm, probably time for an oil change. No, wait, I did that last month they just didn't put up the new sticker. What's that clicking? Something stuck in the tire? Eh, probably not. That sounds more like a squeak. (Turns down radio) Yeah, sounds like it's coming from the right driver's side. Maybe. Wait, no, maybe the right rear. We just had the shocks looked at back there. Oh man, I hope it isn't the same thing again. (Turns radio up again, louder now). Can't hear it now...
Admit it - we've all done this. We've turned up the radio and waited for it to go away. It's an incredible repair method - we sort of expect cars to act like a human body and regenerate parts and lubrication, hoses and gaskets, etc.
Sorry to say, cars just don't do that. However, I wonder if the logic we use with cars isn't just as dangerous when applied to ourselves? More specifically, I run into people often who feel like the "spiritual" wheels have fallen off and they're in a free-fall. There is a distance from God, there is a sense that all the old methods - the tried and true devotional practices or worship music - simply isn't providing the ointment that soothes the rough patches.
I want to give a few suggestions that we can use when we feel stalled, stagnant or simply dead along our journey of becoming like Christ:
1. Are we exploring or avoiding a tension in our spiritual lives? This is a good question, because it gets at the heart of what we believe about God. For example, if we believe God keeps his people completely untouched by pain or trial then any pain or tension causes us to question our proximity or trust in God. The tension comes when our experience does not match our belief and this is a place where I believe incredible growth is possible.
2. Are we out of whack when it comes to spiritual input & output? I have met people who can quote chapter & verse from obscure minor prophets in the Bible, and yet act in unloving and hateful ways. I have met people who have unreal energy for ministry but are riding the ragged edge because they are slighting their families, ignoring their rhythmic need for rest and self-grace, and their identity is wrapped up in what they do and not in Christ. We must have a way to balance the two halves - advance and retreat - of our life in Christ.
3. Are we waging wars between two kingdoms? Jesus really messed up the accepted order when He taught His disciples to pray, "Our Father in the heavens...let your reign come and your will be done, here and now like it is where you are." (Matt. 6:9, my translation) Why? When Jesus asked them to pray this way, they were welcoming conflict. God's reign is deep, seeping like water through loose black soil into our lives and systems. It goes everywhere. Unless, that is, someone resists it by flying the flag of another kingdom.
In other words, we can put ourselves in an awkward spot by deeply investing ourselves in the present kingdom (which means either our own control of our world or the systematic control of politics, etc.) but at the same time asking for God's reign - Jesus' example lived here and now - to come. These two things are largely incompatible.
Spends some time reflecting today on these questions and allow God to provide some insights into where that creaking or clanging sound in your soul is coming from.