Sign seen along an Alaskan highway:
Choose your rut carefully… You’ll be in it for the next 150 miles
I’m not even going to ask if you’ve been in a rut lately, because, helloooo, Covid.
How are you coping, friend? I keep thinking about a line from an old Mel Gibson movie, when someone asked him how he was doing after his wife died, he replied, “It’s just breathe, breathe, breathe all day long.”
Amen. You, too?
The ruts have become deep around my household and not just because of the pandemic. In the past four years we experienced a catastrophic health event, (my husband’s pulmonary embolism) prolonged pain and immobility, (my husband’s arthritic hip) surgery and recovery, resulting emotional and financial challenges and now the isolation and results of covid.
Then there’s the ongoing political rancor, racial tension and overall, “I don’t even recognize my country anymore,” angst.
(Feel your anxiety rising? Inhale. Hold four counts, exhale through your mouth seven counts. You’re welcome.)
Enter the coping mechanism of the rut
The phrase stuck in a rut refers to a wagon wheel getting stuck in a deep channel created by earlier wagons passing over soft ground. It’s about being bogged down / unable to move, rather than forced to remain on a fixed path.
That part about soft ground got my attention; isn’t that what we do when we get in these situations? We want the soft ground of comfort, the snugly blanket of security, whether it’s Netflix or Nutella bingeing—just make me feel better! I want! I need! Gimme’, gimme’.
The problem isn’t the rut itself; it’s the fact that you don’t even realize you’re in one
Here’s what our ruts look like these days:
- The living room has become our dining room
- Election coverage playing 24/7
- Becoming way too reclusive
- My incessant social media scrolling
- My 7PM to 10PM feeding frenzy aka mindless snacking
Just yesterday I told my husband, “We’ve got to shake things up,” and I immediately saw him brace for impact. He does not like change. At. All.
Me: “Babe, we’re watching reruns of reruns of reruns. We’re in a rut.”
Him: “It’s only a rut if you don’t enjoy it.”
Me: “I didn’t enjoy it the first time we watched. I’ll find us a documentary.”
Him: Rolls his eyes but hands me the remote
Me: “Look, here’s one about Bigfoot!”
(After 48 years of marriage I’ve learned the merits of compromise and taking baby steps. Also, it helps to keep a sense of humor.)
If the past season of near-death events, immobility and sequestering have taught me anything, it’s that life is fragile. I’d like to experience my fragile life outside that rut, even if it’s just a stroll down the street, so I got a little bossy.
“We’re going to walk every day.”
“We’re going to watch something besides Star Trek Reruns.”
“We’re going to eat at the dining room table.”
Ruts are mind traps
My husband’s doctor calls ruts “mind traps,” and the only way out of those kinds of ruts is to break the cycle. For example, he told Roger that when all he wants to do is sleep, (a serious result of his PE) he should take the dog for a walk, instead. Pick up his guitar. Go fishing. (He liked that one!)
As for my mindless Facebook and Instagram scrolling, I quickly realized that willpower didn’t work. Just like my spouse, I needed to make another choice.
A better choice.
Better choices are the equivalent of using an object to create a tread when the wheels of your car are stuck in the mud. Treads give you traction.
Traction helps you bust out of the rut and move forward on a better path. A path that’s more life-giving.
I’m not trying to go all legalistic on you with a bunch of “Don’ts.” I’m talking about making choices that fuel rather than drain your energy. Choices that are life-giving. If you’re not sure, ask yourself this question:
Are my ruts bringing me closer to Jesus?
There’s one rut that I recommend you should definitely stay in, though, and that is the rut of seeking the Lord. I’ll explain in a minute.
Seek the Lord
I’m referring to seeking as it is spoken of in some of my favorite Psalms and Old Testament verses. It’s a long list but a wonderful reminder:
- Seek the Lord and His strength. Psalm 105:4
- The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the son of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. Psalm 14:2
- The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Ps 22:26
- I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Ps 34:4
- The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing. Psalm 34:10
- The humble have seen it and are glad; you who seek God, let your heart revive Ps 69:32
- Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied (sought) by all who delight in Them Ps112:2
- How blessed are those who observe his testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart Ps 119:2
- And I will walk at liberty, for I seek your precepts Ps 119;45
- Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near Is 55:6
- You will seek Me and find me when you search for me with all your heart Jer 29:13
- The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him Lam 3:25
- Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until he comes to rain righteousness on you. Hos 10:12
- For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel, ‘Seek Me that you may live.’ Amos 5:4
The Hebrew word for seek is darash
The Hebrew verb here for ‘seek’ is darash, which comes from a root that means “to tread or frequent.” Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says, “to tread or beat a path, to trample with the feet.”
Are you beating a path to seek the Lord? Have you ever sought Him so long and hard that you’ve worn a rut into the ground of your heart, a rut you never want to leave; a rut that feels like home?
Guess what you’ll discover as you relentlessly seek Him, trampling down all your old coping mechanisms and distractions?
He beats a path to seek you, too!
- For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out.” Ezek 34:11
- And you will be called, “Sought out, a city not forsaken.” Is 62:12
Even when you’re in what appears to be an inescapable rut, you are never alone. He is seeking you, inviting you to step out of the mucky, muddy pit you’re in and to step into His Presence. To be washed. To be restored. And then He will redirect you onto the path that is life-giving, fruitful and free.
How’s that for freedom? We get to choose our rut. Which one will you choose?
Choose to seek Him. Beat a path to His Presence. It’s a rut you’ll never have to feel bad about.