Feeling Stuck

I was feeling stuck as I wondered what to blog about today. I went for my morning walk, praying for some inspiration. “Lord, what’s the word You want me to speak?” Crickets.

The last seven days of Advent are the countdown to Christmas. In heightened anticipation, the Church uses a different “O Antiphon” for each of these days. The priest speaks or sings the O Antiphons just before the Gospel. For example, “O come, O Wisdom from on high…” is the antiphon for December 17th. That favorite of Advent songs, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is simply a setting of these seven Gospel acclamations. Each acclamation cries out to Jesus under a different title to come to us and save us.

The “O Antiphon” for today is “O Key of David”. I’m feeling stuck. Jesus is the Key.

Just last Sunday, a friend of mine noted that a good principle of prayer is to pray from exactly where you’re at. If you have no sense of the Lord’s presence, pray about that. If you’re angry with Him, pray about that. If you haven no idea how to pray, pray that. So, if I feel stuck about blogging, I can write about feeling stuck.

Several years ago I told a house guest that I was feeling stuck. My feeling toward God was,”You have hemmed my way in with fitted stones” (Lam 3:9). As I’ve blogged before, I have this “fire in my bones” for the renewal of the Church. I also persistently have a sense of a call to something more in terms of ministry: retreat work, workshops, conferences, book writing, teaching and speaking. Grateful as I was for God’s blessings, I wanted to move – not geographically – although I didn’t know where.

During this period, I had several dreams in which I was hiding fleeing from pursuers into various ramshackle, precarious, tower-like structures. The structures were full of chinks and holes through which my pursuers could easily see me and attack. I felt afraid and vulnerable. My guest thought that the dreams and the feeling stuck might be connected. “Perhaps the Lord is ‘keeping’ you stuck so He can knock down some of the false structures you’ve built around yourself. He may need to strip you of your self-reliance until you know that apart from Him you can do nothing. Once you let down your walls of self-protection, He’ll knock down His.”

He was right. God often keeps us stuck exteriorly so that we almost have to work on ourselves interiorly. I still don’t know if I’m ready for some of those expansions in ministry, and I certainly wasn’t then. I have found that, in certain situations, once I was ready, God did open the door. Jesus is the Key.

Sometimes it’s just as tough for us when those we care about are feeling stuck. We want to fix the situation, rescue them. I’ve had this with clients. A couple may be in a very difficult marriage. Each is working hard to fix his or her part of the problem. Yet nothing seems to change. The temptation is to give up hope. “It’ll never get better.” The same can hold for someone who’s trying to overcome an addiction to alcohol, porn, or unhealthy relationships. These are people who are earnestly seeking the Lord amidst their troubles.

I of course do everything I can therapy-wise. But sometimes, nothing seems to “unstick” them. I point out the progress that I do see. I remind them (and myself) that there’s always  hope, that with God nothing is impossible.

With such clients, when I see they’re coming in soon, I may feel some dread. Not about them – but about my own feeling stuck, my sense of incompetence and helplessness. Repeatedly, it’s those sessions where God surprises me. The couple – without my help – have come unstuck. One or the other spouse has reached a breakthrough. Being stuck has forced them to look deeper within, take more responsibility, or pursue God more steadfastly. Sometimes – this should disturb me, but it doesn’t – things take an upturn only after my schedule hasn’t allowed them to come in for a while. Their not having me to rely on has thrown them on their own resources – and they find that those resources are enough. Perhaps they hadn’t had the confidence, before that, to use the communication skills we’d worked on in session without my assistance.

But it was more than that. “The pain of changing became less than the pain of staying the same.” They couldn’t bear being stuck any more. They realized something had to give. And it did. They opened themselves to grace as well. As in the 12th Promise of AA, “[they] discovered that God was doing for [them] what [they] could not do for [themselves].”

With one client stuck in self-hatred and helplessness, the first thaw in her frozenness was so simple. Her workplace named her the official party maker and high mucky-muck. Her job was to coordinate festivities in her area and keep things fun. She – who saw herself as unlikable and ungifted – discovered a particular gift for creatively rallying her co-workers. She spearheaded a crafts competition and appointed judges to award prizes for most attractive drawing and most creative use of color. She brought cookies and had costumes with a cookie theme. The sessions after these events her demeanor was transformed. She came alive. She realized that she could have fun and bring others joy as well.

Christmas is almost here. All of the world was feeling stuck – was in fact, stuck – in sin, darkness, hopelessness, and futility. Then Jesus came. The Key of David, God made flesh, came to Earth, unlocking prison doors, setting captives free. “O come, Thou Key of David, come/And open wide our heavenly home/Make safe the path that leads on high/And close the path to misery.” Merry Christmas!

There’ll be no blog post next week, as I enjoy the Christmas season with my family. 


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About admin

I am a Catholic clinical psychologist with a solo practice in Omaha, NE. In the Franciscan seminary, I completed about 2/3rd of an M.Div./MA in Scripture. In my 3rd year of temporary vows, I discerned a call to the married life. My lovely wife Mary and I have a son, Michael, as well as a number of children preceding us to Heaven through miscarriages. We are delighted to be in the Omaha archdiocese and love the Heartland.
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