Hitting the Wall

Okay, I’ve been hearing lately about this ‘wall’* that can occur on one’s spiritual journey.  A time when what we thought we knew about life doesn’t make much sense any more.  A time when we can’t keep moving forward as we are.  I have been brushing this off knowing that I must have hit it some time ago when I was changing careers.  Or, maybe I just didn’t notice it.  Characters in novels may need to hit these proverbial walls – Jane Eyre learning about Rochester’s wife, Bertha, or Jo March living through the death of her sister Beth – but I didn’t.

Then I went back to work, to start another quarter of campus ministry – and this was the last thing I wanted to do.  My inner being was rebelling against this journey.  I felt a failure.  I felt I’ve been on the wrong path, losing myself in a morass of administrative tasks.  I’m just scooting by in connecting with God and others.  I’m not really excited about anything in my life, not reaching out in new areas, complaining, wanting someone to come in and fix it.  You get the picture.  I felt that I was physically bumping up against a wall.  It was all I could do to take a few steps to the car, drive to my office, and prepare for the evening.  Something was pushing against my chest.  I wanted to cry out – this is not me.  I felt caged.  My service is not authentic and is too much founded on my limited means.

Looks like that wall is before me, no matter how much I want to deny it.  It would be so easy to start hiding behind a stack of work once again.  Sending emails to students, writing up task lists, shopping for food.  But I don’t want to go there this time.  I want to keep hitting the wall.  Crying out in prayer, even if it feels empty, and forcing myself to address the trouble in my soul.  This is definitely not a comfortable part of my life story.  I don’t know how long this wall will be before me or how it will break me.  But beyond all reason, I trust that what comes out on the other side will be a story I could have never imagined on my own.  There’s another Author in charge.

(I most recently encountered this idea while reading the book The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich.)

Categories: Journey Living | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Hitting the Wall

  1. Alice Connor

    I hear you. I tend to power through the wall, often not knowing there was one there in the first place til I look back at the rubble. I find myself wondering if our conversation the other day in the hallway (resulting in a conversation about a vase and rocks…) was of help? Or too little too late?

    • Going through walls takes me a bit longer as I examine, critique, and even ignore what’s in front of me. I appreciate your words and even, in some bizarre way, look forward to this current wall.

  2. I don’t know you. A dear friend and former student sent me the link to your post. She stated only “you will identify…” I have been in ministry on a college campus for almost 25 years. Honestly, I thought that I would never leave this campus…I’d be a lifer.

    Over the last 18 months, God has been really trying to show me it was time to go. I can’t tell you how many times I have run into a proverbial wall and believed against all belief that somehow…it would get better soon. Or think that God has a lesson in this and when I get through this part…it will be good and He will reveal what I need to know and this will be the place to be again. It’s not. I don’t know that it can ever be…and that’s a big learning.

    I am leaving this June. I don’t know where I am going or even if I will stay in professional ministry, but the walls keep getting thicker. Running into them keeps breeding more hurt and resentment. It’s spiritually crushing and the reality is that if I keep compounding wound upon wound, the scars will be impermeable. I don’t want to be a person who can’t be a compassionate caregiver or a loving companion in travel. That’s what is happening…and can’t let that be…

    God bless you in your journey…please pray for me in mine…

  3. A friend forwarded this to me…she noted that I might identify…

    I don’t know if it is helpful to add, but I could have written every word you wrote.

    And I am not going to run into them any longer. After 24 plus years in ministry on a college campus, I am seeking a new place or new type of ministry. For me, this phase has been getting rockier and rockier and the walls thicker and thicker over the last 18 months or so. It hurts to hit them again and I am growing weaker. And each time I pound myself against the walls, the wounds break open and they aren’t healing just festering…eventually…this will either kill me or the scars will be so thick that I won’t be able to open my heart or my hands to anyone. I can’t do that…

    Do you read Henri Nouwen at all?


    • Renea,

      I so appreciate your honest comments and I am praying for you on your journey. It’s good to know I am not alone in this. My heart is with you. At some point I would be honored to hear part of your story. Within ministry, Christianity, and humanity I am becoming more convinced that we don’t hear enough of the real, difficult stories of people around us – and these stories can connect us more to God’s larger story and pull us into healing possibilities, even in the pain.

      Yes, I’ve read some Henri Nouwen. But it’s been awhile.

  4. I realized now that I ended up posting twice…sorry about that:). Anyway, yes, more of the story someday… Peace, my sister in Christ. Until then…may Holy Week be a time of reflection and the celebration of Easter…a reminder of life beyond the walls.


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