Sticky, Murky Messes Are No Joke

Sticky, Murky Messes Are No Joke

There weren’t a lot of travel options in Mongolia during the early 90’s. There also weren’t a lot of paved roads, so returning from the capital city (Ulaan Bataar) to our home in Murun was always an adventure involving buses, trucks, trains or cargo planes. 

On one particular adventure, my dad, my younger brother and I all climbed into the back of a truck, called a “gotch”. These trucks always reminded me of Soviet army trucks, especially with the brown tarp covering the arched poles in the back and their durability spoke of long treks across countries. 

We were never the only ones who traveled this way, there was always a group of people waiting to travel home. The center of the truck bed was piled high with luggage and bags and then filled with people in every nook available. There was no personal space or privacy of any kind. You simply found your spot and settled in for a long ride through the vast and empty Mongolian steppes. No gas stations, no restaurants, no toilets, just dirt and hills and a beautiful blue sky.

When we first began the journey across the country, the sky was blue and the clouds dry but as we neared evening there began a deluge of rain. It wasn’t long before the truck began to slip and slide along the muddy road. We ultimately hit a particularly slick stretch of mud, the truck spun in a circle and then sank deeply into the muck. 

In a perfect world the truck would have sunk into the mud evenly, but in this case, one side of the truck sank deeper than another leaving us in a precarious position. It was pitch black, the rain was seeping through the tarp that covered us, and we were forced to brace ourselves so as not to slide down on top of others.

We were stuck in that mud all night. I can still remember the feel of the rain dripping on my head and the dreadful feeling that the truck could flip onto its side at any moment, not to mention the annoying presence of the rope I sat on and the uncomfortable realization that I had grabbed ahold of a strangers hand in the height of my fear.

We were stuck and there was nothing that could be done except to wait.  

Being stuck brings a looming helplessness with it. That is the nature of being stuck: you cannot move and no amount of self-will can change your circumstances. It is confining.

There are a lot of ways that I’ve been stuck that aren’t so literal. I’ve been stuck in patterns of thought and I’ve been stuck in toxic relationships. I’ve been stuck in a country I couldn’t leave and I’ve been stuck out of a country I’ve wanted to return to. I’ve been stuck in destructive behaviors and am currently stuck feeling rushes of grief and fear.

There is an innumerable amount of circumstances, either external or internal, that bog me down and from which I cannot remove myself. It can become a hopeless place that stretches out before me and promises no end. Maybe this is why the Scriptures are filled with verses that speak of waiting on the Lord, because throughout the history of human existence, we have all found ourselves stuck without a definitive way out.

While my humanity demands that I struggle against it and seek and search for the methods to free myself, God is not asking me to do the same. As I struggle, spinning my wheels, I mire myself deeper into the mud, frantic to become unstuck, yet God’s voice is gently reminding me to wait.

Shame demands that I prove myself to God and others. It forces me to blame and direct my anger outward or internalize it, punishing myself for my inadequacies. But when I am able to set aside my shame, and feelings of lovelessness, I can find peace in the wait.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psa. 27:14).”

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil (Psa. 37:7-8).”

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope (Psa. 130:5).”

“Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (Jude 1:21).”

Life is hard and being stuck in a murky mess is no joke but I hear God speak again and again through his words and through the lives of others that it is good to wait. This is counterintuitive to my shame. Shame tells me to fix it and move quickly so that there is no evidence of my lacking. God is telling me to stop, sit, wait and listen to what he has to say to me.

He tells me that he is enough, and that I am enough. There is no need to do more, his love is not dependent on action and my lovableness is not dependent on any action or inaction. It is already true and nothing can separate me from that. Yet, I let shame encroach on my soul and tell me that love cannot possibly be that unconditional. I believe, based on my internal restlessness, that God has work he expects me to do and I am always falling behind.

Waiting on God in the mud has allowed me to hear his voice through the din of chaotic works, to better recognize the compulsion of shame and to find rest in my relationship with God.

That night in the back of the tipped, wet, and stuck truck was a tense night. It was unpleasant, scary and frustrating. But as the sun rose and the rain stopped, we all piled out into the brisk coolness of a Mongolia morning. Boys went to one side of the truck and girls to the other. I tied a sweatshirt around my waist for privacy as we all went about our morning business. With some Mongolian ingenuity, imagination and strength, the truck was pulled out of the murky mud and we piled back into the truck to continue our journey home.

It took us a lot longer than we had expected and was a lot more dangerous than we’d like but in the end, God always brings us home.

In what areas are you stuck? How is God calling you to wait? Can you sit in stillness and hear the voice of God through the chaos?


  1. Sarah Hilkemann August 21, 2020

    Thank you for sharing this, Joy! I hadn’t really thought about feeling stuck and waiting together until this week. I was struck by the contrast in your post- the waiting can be the same, but we can wait in despair, in shame, and feel stuck, or we can wait with hope. Right now I’m feeling particularly stuck in my singleness. I don’t know what God has for me, or if this is a season or a lifetime. But I’m feeling challenged (in a good way 🙂 ) to wait with hope in who He is and who I am in Him. 🙂 Thanks, Joy!!

    1. Joy Smalley August 21, 2020

      Hope is such a pivotal piece of faith and life, I think. It is so hard to live day to day without it and yet it is easy to lose in the face of life’s reality. I pray for you, friend. Being stuck or feeling stuck is no joke.

  2. Monica F August 21, 2020

    So good. I needed this right now, especially the reminder about not trying to fix things so quickly that we miss what God is saying/doing/teaching us. Thank you friend!

    1. Joy Smalley August 21, 2020

      Thanks, Monica! I am right there with you, wanting to fix my way through life. Blessings to you, friend!

  3. Vanessa September 6, 2020

    Thank you so much for your insights about feeling “stuck.” I can really identify with that, as I have gone through periods of living in painful situations I thought would never end. God, however, has always provided a way out. Thank you for reminding me to find peace in the waiting.

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