by Caryn Tennant ‘Stuck in the mud’ was one of my favourite childhood games. It’s like ‘catches’ (tag), but when you are caught, your feet stay glued to the ground – until a friend manages to crawl through the gap and set you free again. There are a few times in my life when I distinctly felt ‘stuck’. Disappointments or unmet expectations have knocked my momentum. Those unexpected bumps made me question if, in fact, I was doing God’s will. Isn’t the will of God full of peace and joy? Why was God’s voice so far away? The Christian journey is not without its challenges. Yes, there is peace, but like anything in real life (not the ‘life’ depicted on social media) – there are obstacles and hard battles we must overcome in order to grow. So what are the things that you are finding hard to push through right now? Disappointment, uncertainty, heartbreak, unmet expectations – these are all things that can make us feel stuck from time to time. Before I share some of the lessons I’ve learnt from the mud, I would like to provide some reasons as to why we fall into this place of feeling far from God and/or disconnected from others. It is important to identify what exactly is obstructing your path so that you can move forward. Sometimes we find ourselves stuck because we do need to change something. This is our conscience’s way of telling us that something is off kilter and we are hurting ourselves or someone else. A destructive habit, a wounded relationship, a person we haven’t yet forgiven. These are just some of the ways that can stop us from experiencing interior freedom and feeling close to God. After identifying this, I would highly recommend taking it to Confession. This Sacrament has inexpressible power – both psychologically and spiritually – to open the channel of communication between God and you once more. It is a real push start of grace to getting your wheels out of the mud. One other option is that you might very well be on the right path, but the journey to getting where you are wanting to go is shaping you and pushing you deeper into relationship with God. This is where discernment comes in – do you change course, as in the first option, or do you stay where you are and wait for the discomfort to pass? Lesson #1 Discern. This means that we take our issues, choices and questions to God and we spiritually, emotionally and cognitively sift through them. In other words, discernment requires using our whole being as a tool for where God is leading us. It only refers to choosing between two good things. For example, when I was discerning taking a gap year after school or going straight to university, I took this decision to prayer by giving God permission to guide me, by weighing up the pros and cons and by taking the step to follow the door that opened and gave me the greatest peace. The process of discernment can take days or years depending on the gravity of the decision and the time constraints. There is no recipe for the process – it is different for everyone and unique to the type of decision being made. Lesson #2 Find a spiritual director. The best way to discern something is to confide in someone who has wisdom and experience. Our friends can help us, but sometimes we need to be challenged by someone who is objective and has training in this area. Ask your parish priest if he can help you or if he can recommend a spiritual director in your area. While it is important that we make our own decisions, having someone along the way to provide helpful questions and insight can be enormously helpful. Lesson #3 Be patient. Sometimes we need to wait out the uncertainty. We need to keep digging deep into our prayer life and trust God even when the way is unclear. Eventually something will break even and light will emerge. Lesson #4 Pray for grace. In her book, ‘Rooted in Love’, Margaret Blackie says spiritual maturity is praying for the grace to endure or undertake something rather than simply praying about its outcome. For example, if you are dealing with a situation that is unlikely to change soon, you can pray to bear that time with more grace. This could be to ask for patience, courage, hope or freedom – anything you need that will help you to be a more loving person and to learn from the situation. Be persistent in this prayer and notice how answers to this prayer can be experienced daily and perhaps tangibly as opposed to just fixing your eyes on the finish line. Lesson #5 Choose your narrator. You will find yourself bombarded with thoughts during the day – negative ones and positive ones. While you won’t be able to control those which enter your mind, you can choose the ones you entertain. The other day I was chatting with my sister about how difficult it is to choose the hopeful thoughts, the ones that can seem idealistic in contrast to reality. She said something profound. I don’t remember her phrasing, but it was something to the effect of this, “I have realised that we have the power to choose the story we want to live.” Yes, we do. We don’t have to be governed by the voice that throws tantrums and demands our attention – scorning others or ourselves, telling us that we better ‘watch out’ and take control; or that we should replace hope with despair. This is the voice that stifles our abilities and stops us from moving forward. 2015 is nearly over, but there is still time to get out of the mud, or sit in it more peacefully. My love for Spanish brings to mind a quote from St. Juniper whose motto was “Siempre adelante!” – meaning (move) forward always! Do something today that will move you forward – centimetre by centimetre. Go to Mass, read a book, meet with a friend or take a walk. Perhaps it’s a ‘yes’ to something or maybe it’s a ‘no’. Keep on choosing life-giving thoughts and keep persisting in prayer, holding on to the voice of Christ. His is the storyline that is hopeful and triumphant even if you don’t have the next chapter figured out. About the Author Caryn Tennant My inspirations are the smell of croissants, Pope Francis and café interiors. I have had too many hometowns, but currently I’m living in Cape Town where I finished my BA degree and am now teaching English at a high school. My bucket list includes studying theology, speaking Spanish in Spain, and running a half marathon.