Summary: Sometimes, we just need to get out of our spiritual ruts so that we can get on with God’s work.
Have you ever felt as if you were in a rut? About two years ago, my brother,daughter and I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail on the North Carolina, Tennessee border. It is an area called the Bald Mountains because you actually walk over the tops of the mountains. It is grasslands and a few short trees, but you are able to see in all directions for miles and miles. My youngest brother had just gotten married. After the wedding, we set out for Boone, North Carolina, where we spent the night. The next morning, we set out bright and early for our destination.
The area where we accessed the trail was a very popular location for day hikers. Now, we had been on many sections of the Appalachian Trail, but we had never encountered what we saw here. Understand that over 2,000 people begin this trail each spring. When you add the number who day hike, you come to understand that there is an enormous amount of traffic on the trail, but there is more in some places than others depending on how majestic the sights are. The Bald Mountain area is very popular.
We began by ascending a long row of steps that were actually logs to help with the footing. When we got to the top, the views were breathtaking, but walking was very difficult in some places. Why you ask? There were ruts in the trail. In fact, the trail itself was one long rut. So many people had walked that trail that it had actually worn it down. In some places, the rut was as much as a foot deep. Since it was not very wide-about the size of a footpath, it was very difficult to walk in. Your feet tended to hit the sides of the rut. It was easy to stumble and fall if you were not careful.
What we chose to do in places was to avoid the rut. This we did-and it appeared many others had also, by stepping outside the rut. Those who maintain the trail discourage this because it widens the trail, but it was just so inconvenient to walk in the rut.
When we do the same thing the same way over and over again, we form ruts. It is akin to our daily routine. Most of us probably have ruts in our morning hours. We get up the same time, get the kids off to school the same time, go to work the same time, eat breakfast the same time, eat the same thing for breakfast, etc. It is interesting how we establish these routines in our life. Then when something happens to interrupt the routine or rut, we get stressed out. We might even react emotionally in some way.
I suppose routines or ruts have their merit, but sometimes it does us good to get out of the ruts. I want to think that this man named Saul and later Paul was in a religious rut. As our story picks up, he is on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians whom he saw as a threat to Judaism, the religion of the Jews and thus of the Old Testament.
Suddenly, a light from heaven beams downs on him and blinds him. God interrupts his rut. He asks Saul why he is persecuting him by persecuting Christians. Saul simply asks who was addressing him. Jesus said; “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Paul, as he would later be known, had his life changed and his rut interrupted. He would go on to write most of our New Testament. He made many missionary journeys and planted many churches. He carried the gospel to the known world of his day. God moved him out of his rut.
So we ask ourselves the question, “How can we get our of our self-imposed ruts?”
TRADE TRADITIONS FOR TIMESLESS TRUTHS
Now this is not to say that all traditions are bad. In and of themselves, they may have merit, but it is often what we do with our traditions that make them bad. Our traditions often come out of personal convictions we or our culture may have, but where we get into trouble is when we start judging others by our personal or cultural traditions and telling them they are wrong if they don’t obey our traditions.
We have done this with church life in America in many respects, but I’m glad to see we are getting out of it to some degree. We have told men they have to wear a suit and tie to church. For years, we told women they couldn’t wear pants. We told our children they should be seen and not heard. Then we mandated that Sunday school had to start at 10 and worship at 11. I told someone the other day that when I was in college it was almost taboo for a theology major-that is, a preacher, to have a beard, but it was okay for a music major. We tell people that if they don’t attend church three times a week they can’t teach or hold any position of importance in the church because they are not committed.