Monday Memo: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Terry Walton


‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’

I Was Thinking…

Have you ever been ‘between a rock and a hard place’? Do you know the space of ‘betwixt and between’? Have you ever ‘hit a wall’ (figuratively or literally)? Has life set you in a ‘lose-lose’ situation…you know one of those ‘darned if you do and darned if you don’t’ (to say it politely) situations?

I imagine all of us have found ourselves in these kinds of places and spaces in this journey called life. But have you been in one of these frustrating places spiritually? Do you know the spot of not knowing what or how to pray? A flatlined soul is a scary place to be. So, frightening that there seems to be nothing for you to say or do about a particular matter in life. Have you been there? I know I have. What do we pray, when we just can’t seem to muster up the words or the energy to pray?

When I hit a ‘between a rock and hard place’ spot in my spirit, I have found it helpful just to admit it before God. “God, I just don’t know what to say or do.” I think the Apostle Paul understood such spots when he wrote to the young Christians in Rome, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sights too deep for words. And God who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27, NRSV)

I don’t completely understand how prayer works. Why are some prayers seemingly answered while others appear to go unanswered? Why do some prayers for healing seem to work in miraculous ways and others feel ignored? There is much that could be written about such wonderings, but for today, let’s just admit that we haven’t cornered the market on prayer, except to say that Jesus’ disciples noticed when Jesus prayed, something important always seemed to happen. It was then that those very disciples approached Jesus and basically said, “Lord, would you teach us to pray like you pray?”

I imagine that question thrilled Jesus’ soul. According to the Gospel writers there was an immediate response from Jesus, “When you pray, say: Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as we forgive others their sins. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (Luke 11:2-5, KJV)

When I hit the proverbial wall in my soul life, I pray this prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.  It does something for me…it centers me…it helps me…it guides me…it reminds me that I’m not the only human that has ever been ‘betwixt and between’ not knowing which way to turn…even those first disciples struggled too. And just as Jesus had patience and compassion for them, surely, Jesus must offer that for you and me too.

Several years ago the Holy Spirit took me out behind the spiritual wood shed for a hard lesson to be learned in my life. It was not enjoyable but necessary.  The lesson? Get the attention off myself and place it onto others is a sure way to discover a way forward when tough matters of the soul start to strangle the joy of our resurrected Lord. So, I leave you a second prayer that has helped me when I discover that ‘I’m darned if I do, and I’m darned if I don’t’. May it bless you as you continue your journey through the Lenten Season.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” (Francis of Assisi, Italy, 13th Century)

Always Thinking…

The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop 

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