No man's land...


Laure Anne writes... For the last few months I’ve felt like I’m in a spiritual ‘no mans land’. What do I mean by that you might ask?

Many will be familiar with the analogy of the ‘mountain top’ and ‘valley’. The mountain top being a place of excitement, reward, happiness, a place where you can see the world from a bigger perspective. A place of sunshine and joy. A place where you feel literally on top of the world.

The valley is the opposite – a place of darkness, a place of death, a place of pain, of fear, of loneliness, of struggle. A place where it’s difficult to see the world, because your view is mired by looming landscape making you feel small and insignificant. Valley” experiences may also be associated with the ‘desertplace’ or ‘wilderness’.

When I’m ‘walking through the valley’ or ‘found in the desertplace’ (hmm…so many worship songs!) I find that it’s a place of questioning. I’m often found to be down on my knees crying out to God for help, or yelling and screaming at Him angry about a situation I don’t understand. And the loneliness is often self-inflicted because I’ve shut people out, or have been too proud, nervous or embarrassed to ask people for help. Going to church is a struggle. I don’t want to be there partly because I don’t want anyone to see me in my weakness, and partly because I don’t want to praise a God that I’m angry at. But I’ve always found that I’ve discovered how much I am loved in those times because my family (that includes my friends) come through encouraging and supporting me through it. I also find myself praying more. Reading my bible more. Mainly because I’m looking for answers. When it seems like everything in my life is being stripped away, I’m left with nothing to rely on and almost forced into a choice of trusting God or drowning in self-pity.

When I’m on a ‘mountain top’ the extremity of my bubbly and hyperactive side comes through. Great for me, but at times very irritating for everyone around me! Everything is exciting. I can see everything from God’s perspective. The world makes sense. I’m enthusiastic, passionate and ready to go head first into something challenging.

But then, there is this place in between. It’s generally a period where nothing of note (pleasant or tragic) is happening in my life. I don’t feel a need to rely on God because I’m not being challenged. I’m also not excited. I’m not waking up each morning wondering how I’m going to get through the day. My prayer life becomes dull and stagnant. I’ll read my bible, and I’ll understand the message in it, but it’s not exciting me. I’ll go to church, I’ll go through the motions (say hello to welcome person, thank them for giving you a notice sheet, find a seat, greet the person sitting next to you, sing a couple of songs, sit down, listen to the notices, pray, sing more songs, pray, listen to sermon, listen to a call to be prayed for and think ‘oh good, I don’t need prayer for that’, take communion, sit and reflect, sing some songs, sit down, pray, go through to church hall and chat to people while they drink tea/coffee).

I wonder what other people think of me when I’m going through those times because I think I can become complacent with my life, and with my faith in God. And I reckon that’s when my cynicism kicks in too.

I don’t know about you, but I find the difficult times in life are a struggle to deal with, but I do know how to deal with them. And the happy and exciting times, are well, happy and exciting - no problems there. But I don’t know how to deal with things being ‘ok’ when I ‘don’t need prayer, because I’m plodding along quite nicely thank you’. Basically, I don’t know how to cope when life knowing Jesus seems pretty average, dull and mundane as opposed to exciting, challenging, difficult, painful or fulfilling…

Do you relate to this? How do you cope when you find yourself in a period of spiritual ‘no mans land’?

Laura Anne Mackay