My brothers and I used to play freeze tag on balmy summer nights when the fireflies dipped low across the grass and pesky mosquitoes delivered welts to our bare feet.
My older brother was just enough taller and faster to outrun me every time, and he tagged me down by the creek where the shadows of evening crawled into a hallow of trees and went to sleep. It was impossible for my team mates to see me there and even harder for them to sneak past his lanky arms to set me free.
I was stuck, frozen in some awkward mid-run stance while stars slowly blinked awake. The game continued on around me in squeals and shrieks while my feet remained planted in the cool, packed earth of the creekbank.
At first, being stuck wasn’t so bad. My burning lungs caught a breath; my muscles stopped screaming. I could notice the beads of sweat that trickled down my forehead and into my eyeballs.
It was a welcome pause.
But as the dusk melted into darkness, being stuck began to wear. I slung my body over my knees and squatted in the moonlight, wondering if anyone even knew where I was, or if I’d get a chance to play again before Mom called us in.
The longer I waited, the more I wondered if I even wanted to play anymore, if I wanted to run my legs into jelly and my lungs into fire. Trying to outrun boys was hard. Maybe I just wanted to read my Nancy Drew book and call it a night.
Probably no one would miss me anyway, I thought to myself. They hadn’t so far.
And clearly, I wasn’t the fastest runner, and I wasn’t contributing much to the game. In fact, I could see that everyone else was carrying on very well without me.
That’s the stuff you think about when you’re stuck by a creek in the dark.
It’s also the stuff you think about when you’re stuck in real-life, when circumstances plow you over and tag you out, and you suddenly find yourself frozen mid-step and unable to move beyond the little space of ground right in front of you.
At first it can seem like a welcome reprieve, a chance for your soul to catch its breath. But after a while, even the rest can be wearisome. You spend your days warming the same spot of earth, head down and wondering about your contribution to life.
That is where I’ve found myself the past few years. Frozen. Tagged out. Stuck.
Within a few months of each other, three of my kids were each diagnosed with separate but significant learning issues. Their unique brains are mazes of strengths and weaknesses, and the older they grew, the more evident their challenges became. Our days were filled with trips to therapy, intense work at home, teaching and re-teaching the same material, and the daily effort of trying to communicate with kids who could not process language easily.
I found myself in a place that did not have room for much more than my husband and kids. I did not have the space to think or create or wonder. I had to step back from every ministry I had previously cared about. I did not have the capacity to invest in other people or even to let other people invest in me.
It was all I could do to manage the few things that mattered most.
At the end of each day, I felt as if God had taken everything I had, and out of my emptiness I had to trust that in the morning, He’d give me enough for another day.
I’d like to say that I did this really well. But I was often fearful and angry. I allowed impatience to fester where trust should have grown, and I made frustration my crutch instead of leaning hard on faith. I wondered then if God would ever allow me to use the gifts He’d given me, all the while failing to see how God was using me right then to do the things only I could do: be a wife to my husband and a mother to my children.
I felt like my feet were cemented to the ground, and every time I’d remind God that I was missing out, He would gently say, “There is no place more important than where you are right now.”
That’s a hard truth to swallow when you’ve been stuck in the same square of ground for so long, you wonder if you might be growing roots right into it. Maybe this is it for me. Maybe all those things I thought I’d do and everything I thought I’d be were just dreams and nothing more.
Those are the things you think about when you’re stuck, when little lies begin to creep into the slow and quiet.
You see everything that’s going on where you’re not. You notice how everyone else seems to be able to be and do and go while you’re just frozen.
You fail to notice that the little piece of ground you’re manning is holy ground. What felt like a punishment was really a planting, an opportunity to go to the deep places that busy doesn’t allow.
The truth was, I had not missed my calling. I was knee-deep in my calling. The God of the universe did not ordain me to be a writer or a speaker or even a stellar friend.
He made me to be a mother.
And a wife.
And a faithful child of God.
Those things are the irrevocable call of God on my life, the things that do not change whether I am standing in one plot of ground or running the field.
Everything else is an extra.
But those three things? Those things are worth getting stuck over.
Because it is in those moments of sacred stillness that God does the best work. My children are now reading. All of them. I could cry when I see Paul curled up on the couch with a book, voluntarily doing what used to be agonizing to him. Micah’s personality has come alive now that he is no longer afraid to speak in public. Kya is writing stories. Every single one of them has a relationship with their Father-God that is sweeter because life has been a little hard.
As for me, I would not have seen the hand of God unless I had been stuck up against a mountain that had to be moved.
And it has moved. All around me, the ground has shifted, little by little, until I realized one day that I am not stuck anymore. The days are not so hard, and I am not used up at the end of them. I have come to the end of my un-doing, and everything I thought was frozen is now free.
And to my surprise, I have not missed a thing.
Are you stuck? Do you feel as if your feet are frozen in place, and everything you thought you’d be and everything you thought you’d do are lost in an intense season of being a wife and mother?
Know this: There is a time and purpose for all things, even a time to be still and a little stuck.
But it is not for always.
One day, God will free up your time, your gifts, and even your dreams. And you will find that you did not miss a thing.