Did you ever play that game as a kid where if you were tagged you had to stand still and wait for someone to crawl through your legs, so you could run again? We called that game ‘stuck in the mud’. This post is about the real-life version of that game.
In the first four days on a recent trip to Malawi, our van got stuck in the mud four times. It's quite embarrassing to get stuck and have all the locals just stare and giggle. It must be entertaining to see foreigners get out of a van, get their feet dirty and argue about the best way to get out.
It was frustrating. If they had just listened to me, then this wouldn't have happened. If I could just drive, then we would not have gotten stuck. But the more we tried different ideas, the worse it got and the deeper the tyres sunk into the mud.
Reflecting on this later, I can see how we all have times where we get stuck in the mud (even if you are the driver). It is those times where you just do not know how to move forward. You step on the gas but the wheels just keep on spinning; it is such an unnerving feeling when you realise your momentum is gone and you are stuck.
And most of the time we are stuck for a few weeks, sometimes months. Some call it the stormy season, the desert season, the ‘where is God’ season. The best you can do is to wait for guidance and help. The worst thing you can do is to keep the wheels spinning, getting deeper and deeper, draining your energy.
Jesus did not calm the storm and then talk to the disciples. No, He spoke to them in the storm and then it calmed down. He is in the waiting.
Getting stuck is not the issue, it’s the not knowing how long you will be stuck and not knowing where and when to turn for help. Is this going to be a five-minute stuck or a five-month stuck? Should I tell my family and/or my supporters? Am I really stuck or am I making it worse than it is?
I often forget about these muddy times. They all seem to pass somewhere along the line. When I am in it, the only question going through my mind is “How do I get my momentum back?” Once I am free, I continue with my journey. When I share my story, I rarely share the part where I got stuck and the patience I needed to wait for the time to pass.
We should share our stuck-in-the-mud times more often and with more confidence. Every car that leaves the mud leaves tracks behind for other cars to follow or not follow. Those deep tracks show others where not to go, the wet tracks on the dirt road, show others that the car made it, it got out.
I want my muddy times to help others. If my muddy tracks can guide others and help them to take a different route or encourage them that there is a way out, then I will gladly share how awful my muddy season was.
Just like the children’s game ‘stuck in the mud’ we need others to help us, to set us free. Sometimes the game gets so crazy that people don’t know you are stuck and need help; all you need to do is to shout out “Hi, can someone help me here” and then stand there and wait. The same thing happened when our van got stuck in Malawi, we had to look around, ask for help and wait for people to show up. And afterwards, we told the cars passing us that they should either turn around or go through the mud with speed.
We need to start sharing our muddy tracks. We need to be vulnerable, share with others when we are knee deep and need help. We need to start reaching out to those who are stuck, hand them the tools to get out, encourage them to be patient, wait and listen.