STUCK IN A RUT, STUCK IN A RUT, STUCK IN A RUT, STUCK IN A RUT……….
Steve Dresselhaus March, 2013
My wife has given me her permission to be a bit eccentric as long as I don’t go too weird on her. By eccentric, we are not talking about the goofy uncle who lives in a run-down house with weeds in the yard who yells at kids on Halloween and hoards every paper that comes into his house. I’m thinking more in terms of wearing brightly colored T-shirts with colors which clash with the wear-to-the-office shirt, never wearing anything but jeans, and riding a bicycle the three miles to work every day of the year, come rain, intense cold, hellish heat or any other type of weather mother nature has in her arsenal. I also like to eat liver, Brussels sprouts and pickled herring. Within my wife’s limited standards of acceptable eccentricity, I am free to rethink everything about life, although she may balk at some of the applications to life I dream up. Nonetheless, she does not frown on me discussing with her my shifting views of biblical end times theology, my woeful and acknowledged ignorance of what prayer truly is, my growing horror at the idolatrous worship of money and possessions in America, my nagging fear that what we normally call church in America is nearing terminal collapse, the approaching disintegration of our economy as the need for incessant growth collides with the reality of finite resources and a limited number of consumers, my joy at the rapid growth of environmental concern by followers of Jesus, my partial utopian view that when followers of Jesus really learn what it means for the church to be the bride of Christ we will become an unstoppable juggernaut for good and transformation, and the reviewing in my mind of virtually everything I grew up thinking I believed. My wife patiently and gently puts up with all my mental eccentricities, making her a qualified candidate for canonization far beyond what Mother Theresa ever was.
On my daily weather-ignoring bike ride to work, there is a block-long discontinuation of the street. This puts me on a narrow path across a grassy field before the street picks up again. The path is a bike trail and also a walking path for all the neighborhood kids who walk to and from the local high school. The twice a day drum beat of teenaged feet and the daily pressure from those of us who ride bikes has turned the path into a foot-and-a-half-wide, six-inch-deep rut. It looks kind of like one-half of the old Conestoga-wagon- dug Oregon trail we see pictures of in history books.
As soon as I leave the street and am in the trail I become like those little electric race cars where the guide fits into the slot in the track. I am committed to the rut. I am stuck in it. Sometimes being stuck in the rut is comfortable, but sometimes it is miserable. On rainy days the rut gets wet and muddy, and slogging through the mushy rut on my bike takes extra energy and concentration. In the winter the rut fills with snow, making pedaling through it a true cardiovascular workout. During the changes in season, the soft gushy mud often freezes and the freshly imprinted tire tracks become sharp, jagged mini ruts that make balance difficult as I bounce and bump my way to the office. The mini rut bumps are to my backside what screeching nails on a chalkboard are to my ears (back in the day when such ancient stuff was used).
Sometimes being stuck in the rut is very comfortable and I don’t even have to think about where I am headed; history, tradition and others are taking me where they have always gone. At other times being trapped in the rut is too much to endure and I have to get out. I have learned a valuable lesson in rut exiting. Trying to gently ease my way out of the rut is a lot of work and is seldom successful. As I try to gradually and gently steer the front wheel of my bike up and out, it almost always just slides back into the rut. Not only do I fail at exiting the rut but I also often struggle to maintain balance as I fall back in. The only way out of the rut is to make a determined and energetic quick turn. There is always a momentary jerk, a bounce, and a short struggle for balance; but I do get out.
My morning bicycle commute is a daily reminder to me of both the comforts and dangers of ruts. What other ruts am I in? Sunday church? Formulaic daily Bible reading? Overeating? NCIS reruns? Routine life in suburbia? An interminable chain of 9 to 5’s? The false comfort of materialistic isolation? A rut has been described by someone more clever than I as a grave with both ends kicked out. In what ruts am I stuck from which I need to escape? Willful and selective eccentricity can often be a good thing if it motivates us to challenge our assumptions and frees us to make the quick turns which can liberate us from life’s ruts. Choose your exits. It’s time.