Our lives are lived at the intersection of the past and the future, a place that few of us enjoy as we should.
All too often we are dogged by regrets over things that might have been, and racked by the fear of what might be.
I sometimes wonder if it is the irrational fear we have of the future that is at the heart of our equally irrational fear of change.
Keep things exactly as they are and we are protected against anything that life can throw at us. Thus we choose to live in a rut, and it was Jamie Buckingham who once described a rut as a shallow grave.
You can see this in the wanderings of the ancient Hebrews as they trudged for 40 years, around and around the Arabian peninsula. It seemed that the last place in the world they wanted to see was the Promised Land, flowing as it was with milk and honey.
And so you find them wanting to settle down. Sure they even wanted to return to captivity in Egypt, for at least they could be sure that every day would be the same: no nasty surprises.
There’s another example of this common human malaise in the New Testament, on the so-called Mount of Transfiguration.
We’re told that Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, thought to be Mount Hermon.
There, the disciples had a thrilling experience, as something remarkable happened to their Master.
His clothes glistened with what could only be described as a celestial brightness, and even more shocking was the company they were in. None other than Moses and Elijah.
And what was Peter’s knee jerk reaction? ‘Lord,’ said he, ‘it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’
In other words, let’s settle down. All these great plans to evangelise the world sound great, but sure isn’t this just wonderful?
But what he was really suggesting was, let’s crawl into the safety of our own little rut, a place where we can preserve the beauty of this moment, a place where no harm can befall, where there is no risk of failure.
That’s it, isn’t it?
The truth is that a rut is a shallow grave, but it is also a self-imposed prison.
There are things we talk about that we would love to do, things we could achieve, shackles we would cast off, but we can’t, because that would entail change, and change carries within it a debilitating fear of the future, as in: ‘I might not like my job very much, but at least I know how to do it.
‘If I go for that promotion I might not succeed and what would my colleagues think of me?’
The prison in our minds is a fearful place.
Think of Nelson Mandela: 27 years of cruel incarceration in Robben Island and yet his spirit remained unfettered.
Neither his high-security cell, nor the razor wire that topped walls could restrict his free and expansive mind.
If we could only grasp the fact that the Spirit of the great Creator God desires to fill his people to overflowing, there is neither a rut nor a prison on Earth that could ever contain us.