A View from the Pew: Breaking Out of a Slump

If we’re honest, we all have slumps.

Forgive the overuse of sports metaphors, but no matter the game, slumps are real, observable, and unavoidable. Every player goes through a period when they are not producing, even the most accomplished athletes in the world.

Slumps are real. They happen to everyone.

What can we learn from the advice of athletes and coaches as they try to break out of periods of languishing performance?

There are times when we are not as spiritually attuned to God’s mission and purpose, and we live for ourselves. Our activities lack meaning, and we feel disconnected from God and other people of faith. We lose touch with our spiritual disciplines and practices that facilitate our relationship with God, and our lives feel pointless.

In basketball, the conventional wisdom is to keep shooting. You will eventually regain your form, muscle memory will take over, and the shots will go in. In baseball or golf, coaches use video to discover tiny changes in form that are affecting throwing motion or swing. For football players or those who take on individual sports like swimming or tennis, the answer can be to rest and reset.

Lent is like that for me. I push and push throughout the week, marking items off my to-do list and maximizing productivity, including my prayer and Scripture reading. If I’m not careful, I begin to feel like I’m in a slump, losing touch with the Divine while I scramble to get things done.

But Lent causes me to rethink my patterns and change things up. Instead of reading the Bible, there are times when I journal. When I’m in a season of heavy processing through journaling, I discover I need to stop writing everything down and just sit with God and breathe.

It’s rare that slumps end players’ careers, though there are several instances in my lifetime I can easily recall. Slumps are typically temporary. Their length is usually dictated by how long it takes the individual to recognize that they’re in one and adjust.

If you feel your participation in worship or your engagement with the life of the church isn’t what it needs to be, I encourage you to take a step back and acknowledge you are in a slump. Just by asking the question, “Am I in a slump?” you may be able to identify some simple solutions that will “return to you the joy of your salvation.”

I relate to Paul’s pharisaic approach all too often, and I am tempted to ignore the warning signs and keep doing what I’m doing. I like his letters that encourage church members to “pray without ceasing” and “buffet your body to bring it under subjection.”

But a slump may need the words of Jesus in Matthew 11: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

As our Lenten journey to the garden, the cross, and the empty tomb continues, may you find meaning in your spiritual practice and vitality in your relationship with God. And may the only slumping you do come from poor posture in your seat at church.

Lance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA. He earns a living in higher education communications and writes a blog at newsouthessays.com.

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