Subsistence: (sub-sis’-tens) A noun: 1. The act or fact of supporting oneself at a minimum level. 2. to remain alive; exist.
Unstuck: (un-stuk’) A noun: 1. The act or fact of being removed from the rut of subsistence. 2. a gift of God through Christ that allows one to enjoy the abundant life promised by Jesus in John 10:9-10
John 10:9-10 [Jesus said:] “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
If the “Boss,” Bruce Springsteen is right, there are a lot of us today who are stuck in a rut. The music of “Dancing in the Dark” is upbeat, but the lyrics are anything but:
I check my look in the mirror
I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face.
Man I ain’t getting nowhere
I’m just living in a dump like this…
Today, it’s easy to feel as if we’re stuck in a rut. The alarm goes off in the morning. You rub the sleep from your eyes and stagger around trying to get ready for the day. Time gets away from you, and before you know it, you’re running late. Whether you’re off to work, school, or tending to household chores, the day is long and by the time dinner rolls around, you’re beat.
But even after dinner there are lots of things to do. You try to catch up on some of the work you brought home, or help the kids with their homework. Maybe there are errands to run, shopping to do, sports practices, or dance classes the kids need rides to. If you’re lucky, you get home in time to watch a little TV or stream something off Netflix if it’s not too long.
Before you know it it’s time for bed. You set the alarm and the stage is set for a repeat performance tomorrow. A rut has been formed. If you are truly fortunate, the rut will not be complicated by personal illness, pain or suffering. Weeks turn into months, then years, then decades. Suddenly, you’re asking yourself, “Where has the time gone? What have I done with my life?” You realize that while you may have been super busy, you’ve been stuck and you’ve been subsisting, not really living.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a 2,000-year-old formula for getting unstuck. And it doesn’t have to do with adding something new to your regimen. Your days are already too full and your nights are too short. But it is about doing something different. It’s about having a different sense as to what is important in life.
When asked, Jesus said the number one priority in life had two parts. “We’re to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.” (Luke 10:27). We call it the Great Commandment. But, it’s not so much a law or a command as it is a way of life — a world view.
Trying to save our own lives can be like being on a treadmill. We run as fast as we can, but we’re going nowhere. There is a better way. Jesus said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26)
It may be counter-intuitive, but the way to get out of the life rut is to begin to live for something bigger than yourself. The key to the abundant living Jesus promises is to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. And, what’s important about this truth is that love is more than a feeling. Love is a verb. It is an action. We capture this idea at Mountain of Faith by saying our purpose or mission is to love God by welcoming and serving others. This is love made real — made tangible. We get out of the life rut by serving God and serving others.
We get unstuck by living a faith that cares for others — for widows and orphans as the Bible says. Our faith, our Christianity, was never meant to be a noun. It’s a verb, an action verb. We need to be careful that our faith does not become too intellectual and less powerful — too civilized and less compassionate — too socially acceptable and less authentic. My prayer is that in this time leading up to Easter, Christians would be less “religious” and more faithful to the Great Commandment.
It is time for the people of God to make a difference. It’s time for us to quit dancing in the dark with the rest of culture and be about the business of loving God and our neighbor. It’s time for us to quit subsisting and begin living the abundant life Jesus promised.
Rick Ehrheart is pastor of Mountain of Faith Lutheran Church in Tooele.