Stepping out of a rut during Advent


By Judith Costello

Our horse didn’t come running for breakfast. But it was a frigid day and I wasn’t running either. I continued doing the barnyard chores without thinking anymore about Misty, until I was ready to go inside. Then, I realized Misty still hadn’t moved from where she stood between a fence and the round pen — a V-shaped corner. Now she was whinnying.

I hurried over to where she stood only to discover Misty was in a deep rut. Although she had room to back out of this corner, she wasn’t doing the obvious. Instead, she kept scooping the dirt, trying to continue forward.

After the drama was over, it reminded me of how we humans are. We are set in our ways. We imagine we are moving forward in our spiritual lives by doing the same things. We go to church, we tithe. We say prayers a couple of times a day. That’s right, isn’t it? Do we even realize when we’re not progressing?

Anyway, Misty is an old horse. It was clear from the amount of dirt she had dislodged that she spent the night in this spot. Her arthritis was kicking in, making her back legs stiff. I was scared. She could fall trying to get out of this spot. I didn’t want her 1,000-pound body falling on her thin legs. Nor did I want her to fall on me.


That’s kind of how it is at Advent time in the faith journey. We don’t want to cave into the commercials and the pressure to buy-buy. But we tend to return to what we did in years past. That’s the rut. Even though we know better, the routine of shopping and doing too much seems to take over. We find ourselves lusting after worldly things. Yet, this is the New Year of the church. It’s time to take stock of our relationship with Jesus.

I couldn’t seem to convince Misty that she needed to try something different. I coaxed her. I put a halter on her. She went back a tiny bit and immediately stepped forward again.  I needed help. With a quick phone call, our horse-savvy neighbor came to the rescue. 

Advent is an opportunity to step back and reconsider the direction of our lives. When we do this, the Holy Spirit rushes forward to rekindle a passion for God.

Sally said, “We’ll put a stick between the fence and the round pen. Each time she backs up a little we’ll move it to block her from going forward. We’ll inch her back.”

Of course Misty could have gone forward again. The stick was symbolic. But she let us convince her. Her eyes were big with fear. My heart was pounding fast. I could hear her stiff legs creaking. But she took a tiny step with her back legs.

The steps we take during Advent are important. When we return to deeper prayers, reading the Bible and caring for others in a more intentional way, we move slowly out of the rut. The stick represents some kind of reminder. At our house we have a Good Deeds basket. We write down our efforts at change and try to fill the basket before Christmas.

At one point Misty stopped. Sally pushed her with all the strength in her small body. Misty finally took a big step. Then she was able to find a way to turn around. She turned her face toward freedom.

The Light of the World is coming. Let’s all turn to God and let the Spirit of God give us a big “push” toward lives of deep devotion!

(Judith Costello is a freelance writer who grew up in Davenport and now lives in rural New Mexico. Her Web site is

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