Prayer, Self How to Get Out of Spiritual Ruts

BY CARA HOWARD, GRACE ATTENDER & VOLUNTEER EXTRAORDINAIRE

A sudden thud interrupted our conversation. Startled, I scanned the room for the source. My friend sighed in exasperation. “It’s a dumb bird,” she explained. “The same robin has been flying head-first into our front window for two weeks.”
 
The mystery was solved but the distraction remained. It was hard to relax with the irregular rhythm of self-flagellation in the background.
 
This creature’s odd behavior has haunted me ever since.
 
The clean sunlit window mirrored back his reflection but the bird didn’t recognize himself. Deceived, he flew toward the illusion, believing it was another bird. Panic or pride consumed him. Instinct fueled these dogged attempts despite the fact that each one resulted in pain and failure. Though free, the bird remained caged by his limited understanding, trapped by the glass barrier.
 
You see, I can relate.
 
My own species isn’t so different. We repeat our errors when we lack self-awareness, responding to our perceived reality. Trust placed in our fallible eyesight results in internal injuries from self-inflicted blunt-force trauma.
 
False narratives masquerade as truth and drive our behavior. I buy into the lie that my worth depends on my performance. Perfectionism demands a try-harder life, leaving me exhausted and empty. Only when my gaze is fixed on truth can I see clearly.
 
A passage from the Bible flew into my mind as I meditated on this object lesson: “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it - not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it - they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22-25)
 
My faith gets stuck in the rut of religion when I concentrate on the wrong things. My energy ebbs when I focus on myself and my own efforts. The same disciplines designed to feed my soul get reduced to checkboxes on my daily to-do list. My feathers get ruffled chasing the idol of productivity. Just like my bird friend, I keep slamming into invisible dead ends, bruising my spirit. I forget what I look like, whose I am, and I fall for the mirage of satisfaction to be gained by pleasing others.
 
I made a vow. This tiny life won’t be lost in vain.
 
My birdbrained friend taught me to:

  • Pay attention. Keep my eyes and ears open to God’s presence. Ask questions. Pray.

  • Adjust my flight plan. Admit my failures and needs. Reorient myself with Biblical truth.

  • Stretch my wings. Do something new, even uncomfortable, to broaden my perspective.

  • Stop my incessant flapping. Get some rest. Refresh my soul with sleep and play.

  • Rejoin the flock. Reconnect with wise friends, and follow them as they follow Jesus. 

 

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