There are times that a picture captures more than what I see with my eyes. This picture is one of those times. A few days ago, I was taking some long-exposure shots of this waterfall after we got a bunch of rain over the weekend and when I looked at the shots, I saw the red leaves caught in the middle of the waterfall. But what came to my heart as I looked at this picture was “stuck.” I saw those leaves stuck in the midst of the rushing waters. (Of course, another way of looking at it is that the leaves are safe from the waters, but that might be for another post – the beauty of art is that it always has more than one interpretation).
There’s a lot of ways that we can feel “stuck.” For instance, I am currently in a chat session also with my cell phone company about some questions on our cell plan – that is one example of “stuck” – we’re stuck in our contract… Others are far more consequential – people who feel stuck in toxic relationships, dead-end jobs, or untenable situations. I know I have felt forms of stuck like these at times in my life.
But there’s another form of “stuck” that I heard in the Gospel readings I did the last few days and it is far more subtle than these other ones. It is stuck in the ways that we think and feel about the world. Stuck in our patterns of thinking. Stuck in our patterns of belief. Stuck in our political positions. Stuck in long held world views. Stuck.
In the passages from the last two days in John’s Gospel, we see examples of this. In John 10:31-42, we see the opponents of Jesus who are unwilling to even entertain the possibility that Jesus is who he says he is or that their understandings and expectations might have been flawed. Then in John 11, there is a stuck-ness from one of the disciples when Jesus tells them they are returning to Bethany after the death of Lazarus. Thomas’ response is not one of trust in what Jesus said but instead one of fear and a stuck-ness in what he has believed and an inability to believe that something may be different this time.
One of the ways that God has been moving in me is a willingness to allow myself to be changed, to be surprised, to be open. I am not perfect at this by any means, but I am growing. As I look back on who I was 5 years ago, 10 years, 15, 20, 25 years, I see how much I have changed in so many ways. What I am grateful for is that my view has broadened and not narrowed – that there’s a wider sense of mercy, love, grace, gratitude, and hope. Are there areas where I am still “stuck”? Yes there are. Are there areas in me that others think I am stuck? I am sure. But I believe that God has softened me to the place that I can be changed.
I think that this is an area we can all work towards. So many of our issues we are dealing with in our world, our country, our cities, our faith communities, our neighborhoods, etc have to do with our unwillingness to be changed. The idea that everything is either right or wrong, black or white, faithful or unfaithful, holy or secular, and the list goes on. When we move into that kind of binary thinking, we are stuck.
By the way, I stopped by that waterfall today and the leaves are no longer stuck in the falls. They have moved along the creek to wherever the waters are going to take them next. Their journey continues.