On Staying Stuck

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On Staying Stuck

On Staying Stuck:

Ever feel stuck? I do. And when I am stuck, I think of three very different ‘stuck’ stories. One makes me chuckle, another stirs within me gratefulness. And the last saddens me. I’ll begin with the story that makes me smile.

It is from a classic storybook by A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. Winnie-the-Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood eats all the remaining honey in his jar. In search of more honey, he visits Rabbit’s house. Rabbit invites Pooh for lunch, and Pooh devours every jar of honey in Rabbit’s house. Because of the vast amount of honey Pooh ate, his stomach is very full and round. And while exiting through Rabbit’s front door, Pooh becomes stuck. Rabbit tries to help Pooh by pushing on the over-sized bottom of the silly old bear. It isn’t any use. Pooh is stuck. As his Hundred Acre Wood friends stop by to help Pooh; Christopher Robin, Owl, Gopher, Roo and Eeyore, they offer solutions. But none of their suggestions work. Pooh doesn’t budge forward or backward even one inch. So, it is decided that Pooh must remain stuck in Rabbit’s door until he slims down a bit. A few days later, Rabbit pushes Pooh forward. Finally, Pooh is launched from Rabbit’s door in the air into the forest. He lands in a honey tree. The story ends with the silly old bear enjoying a hive full of honey.

This next ‘stuck’ story stirs within me gratefulness. It is based on a true event.

Several years ago, my husband Robert and our son Jeff were spelunking with two of Jeff’s pals in a Colorado Rocky Mountain cave. They entered a narrow portion of the cave referred to as “Fat Man’s Misery.” Two of the young men were tall and thin making it easy for them to crawl through narrow passageways. Jeff and Robert were heavier and bulkier in stature which caused them a little more concern. After entering the cave, they were able to sliver through “Fat Man’s Misery with little difficulty. Thus they assumed they could exit it just as easily. The only light was from their four faint flashlights. Robert tells their story.

“Being a 40+ year old martyr at the time, I allowed the younger men to exit from the cave first. After that, I approached the “Fat Man’s Misery” passageway. Naively, I advanced on my belly for the final approach and after crawling a bit, I sensed that I was in trouble. Along the way, I had inched my head, turned my shoulders, and flattened my gut making slow but steady headway. Suddenly, I felt a sharp rock from above cutting into my back. I was in an awkward position and I couldn’t go forward, or backward no matter how hard I tried. The more I grunted to move or to turn my body, the more intensely the rock above me cut into my flesh. Panic surrounded me. I drew in a deep breath. I was below the surface of the earth. By now, my flashlight battery was dead. I couldn’t nudge forward, backward or sideways without intense pain. The rock held me captive. I was helpless.”

“I reached a point where I had no other choice but to remain still and pray for God’s deliverance. Time passed slowly while I prayed. I didn’t feel peace or even comfort. I did realize, though, that God was God.”

“Eventually one of the thinner guys was able to gain entry through another opening adjacent to where I was stuck. He then got behind me; lifted my legs and placed my body in a diagonal position which allowed me to slip my body through the narrow rocks.”

“Gratefully, I was free and delivered. And God gave me a fresh perspective on the verse ‘Be still, and know that I am God'” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).

I love the above two stories because of the endings. I chuckle when I hear the name Winnie-the-Pooh. He is a lovable character; often making mistakes and including his friends in problem solving. And when I think about the ending part of my husband’s and son’s story, I am grateful to God; that He brought my husband and son safely home after their adventure of spelunking, and for friends who were involved in that happy conclusion.

Don’t we wish that all of life played out like Winnie the Pooh and his friends of Hundred Acre Wood, where good turns out even better? But life’s DVD does not simply capture animation or classic storybooks. Nor does it always provide a way out when one is stuck beneath the earth. It promises to zoom in on our real day to day stuff. On the scenes we would erase—if we could.

We think of the cancer patient’s family who is stuck in fear, denial and/or helplessness. And of the couple who stays stuck in a bad marriage without seeking counseling. Or of the parents who ignored the warning signs that their teenage child was on drugs—until it was too late. They were called to identify their child in a morgue. Then we wonder about the teen. How long was he/she stuck in a dark, vicious cycle of addiction? We think of the worker who faithfully labors for a boss, but is unfairly overlooked for a promotion. We cringe at the thought of those who are abused, but are too fearful to seek help. We remember the family stuck in an unending cycle of debt, or an upside-down mortgage.

And the list goes on. During the days when we can’t move forward, sideways or backward; some of us draw near to God, some of us do not. And we could write pages of scenarios where man becomes stuck and stays stuck.

But none of the scenarios are as heart wrenching as the following. It is found in the Gospel of Luke. This is not my story. It is the Word of God, a story told by Jesus. I must admit, I am more comfortable with stories of God’s love, grace and forgiveness, than I am about man’s state, after death, without Jesus Christ. This story is about a man who is stuck—forever.

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.”

“Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us. And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment. But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead'” (Luke 16:19-31NASB)!

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