I just finished reading a wonderful book by Robert J. Wicks, called Living Simply in an Anxious World. I think it was the final chapter that spoke to me the most. In it, Wicks talks about being in an impasse situation. “An impasse situation is such that the more action one applies to escape it, the worse it gets…” An impasse requires one to change his or her normal way of doing things. It often requires a radical breaking out of our regular way of thinking. An impasse can be a way toward creative breakthrough. It shows us our real powerlessness to continue in the same way we always have. Sometimes, though it can lead to cynicism and bitterness if one does not discover a creative alternative. I have to admit, that this is where I have found myself on numerous occasions. And, quite likely, my own choice to give in to my own flesh and desire for comfort during these times has often caused me to enter into cynicism and bitterness.
Even when we do our best and work our hardest, things may not work out the way we thought they would or the way we wanted. We try to reason things out to no avail. Human reason rarely works in an impasse situation, especially spiritual impasse situations. Wicks uses the example of how pilots navigate their planes in high altitude. When a pilot flies at high altitude they must rely on the instruments rather than their eyes. The horizon can appear inverted to them and if they are not careful to focus on what the plane’s instruments are telling them rather than their eyes they can end up flying upside down. In an impasse situation all may be inverted; all may be darkness and when we try to look with our human eyes; our eyes of reason, often all we will see is despair and hopelessness, but we must not look with our natural eyes at the situation, we must not rely on our reason; we must use the instrument God has given us: “walk by faith, not by sight.” “If anything,” says Wicks, “impasse and helplessness… can dramatically drive us to recognize and embrace there reality of grace.”
Wicks goes on to discuss the notion of security. The one thing many of us want more that anything else in the world is security. An impasse situation often threatens our security. Wicks quotes a little pamphlet about simplicity by Quaker writer Elaine Prevallet, “If security is our treasure,” says Prevallet, “then we need to look there to find our idols.” Prevallet goes on to say that it is our double-mindeness, our fractured self, that keeps us from being wholly devoted to God. The things that cause our double mindedness, she says, is “trying to find security in more than one thing.” Anytime I seek security in something less than God, I am making myself double-minded and fracturing myself in however many pieces as the things I am seeking find security in: success, riches, acceptance, being liked and admired by others, comfort… or any other thing that is less than God. Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters…” and it is in the time of impasse, the time of darkness and mystery, that I am most tempted to seek other “masters.”
I want to be fully devoted to God; fully surrendered to his will and walk in his way even (perhaps especially) at the fime of impasse; It is here in the darkness that the place of my devotion is most clearly seen.
Father, please help me to not look to the situation to find my peace. Help me to find it in you and you alone. Please forgive my cynicism and the bitterness that results from my seeking security and comfort in other things and people besides you. Please forgive me for trying to serve two masters. My hope is in you alone. Help me to look to the instruments you have given to help me get my bearings during the times of impasse. I choose to walk by faith rather than by sight. In Christ, Amen.