Rejecting Adaptation for Allegiance

Rejecting Adaptation for Allegiance

I have spoken with several psychotherapists who often ask their clients, “Where are you stuck?” They all say their clients have no problem answering. We humans know where we are stuck. We just need help getting unstuck.

I love mountain biking, evidenced by how often I find illustrative material on the trails. On the trail I ride most often, Picture Rock (pictured below), I go through periods in which I cannot seem to get through a section I have ridden previously without difficulty. It is always puzzling. “Has the trail changed?” It happens. As rocks become dislodged and clay turns to dust, the terrain shifts. Areas once easy become problematic. On other occasions I am riding in the wrong gear, which causes pedal strikes from the different rhythm. Sometimes the problem is my physical body, specifically the effects of estradiol on the continuing diminishment of my muscle mass. Most of the time, however, the problem is none of those. The problem is in my mind.

Mountain biking takes extraordinary focus on nothing but the few inches of trail in front of you. It engages all of your senses and demands both sides of your brain. Since the dominant side of the human brain (the left brain for most of us) tends to edit and filter what the right brain wants to express, it takes unusual circumstances for the right brain to find opportunities for unedited expression.

All of which means when you are riding narrow singletrack, which demands the full attention of your left brain, feelings normally repressed find the opportunity to bubble up into consciousness. As they wend their way through the harshness of your demanding ego, they grab your attention. You lose your focus on the trail and forget how to ride through sections that used to be easy to navigate.

After ruling out the simple problems, like taking a line in the wrong gear, I stop looking at the trail and turn inward. What is my problem? Is it a complex I am seizing from the past, ghosts from childhood? Is it the fear always close by, life’s twin existential threats of abandonment and feeling overwhelmed? Is it my unwillingness to take the next risk my life demands, the last one having been so traumatizing?

If I sit with myself long enough, I can usually identify the problem, though it takes a lot longer to find the courage to face it. Taking the road less traveled means rejecting adaption for allegiance to the soul. It is never easy work.

I have recently passed a number of milestones. I have gone back to work in church planting, my vocation for the better part of four decades. I am working with churches and pastors, helping them find their rhythm in ministry. I am counseling individuals and couples, helping them pedal through their own rough terrain. And I am preaching again, a great joy.

I have a gnawing sense my work is not done. There is a restlessness that remains, holy, unsettling, necessary. Some things we do not choose. They choose us. I will be patient, and the message of the heart will bubble up through the fissures of my willful ego.

Recently I started attacking a new section of trail, my previous stopping point having been determined by a skill level I have now surpassed. It is time to climb higher, through more difficult terrain. I have not traversed the new section one single time without coming off the pedals. But I will figure out the lines to take and the gear that matches my strength. It is all a part of the journey.

And so it goes.


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