Frozen Up and Fruitless

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Have you ever been completely frozen up?

Having grown up in the north and having delivered morning newspapers in the predawn hours of many bitterly cold winters, I’ve known cold. But I’m not talking about that kind of “frozen up”.  And having had a few “college cars” that were essentially oil-burning transportation, I know the dangers of running low on oil and having pistons lock inside dry cylinders. But I’m not talking about that kind of “frozen up,” either.

Several months before I froze up, I had moved my family to a new city. The career decision seemed right. Being the president of a growing division of an aggressive, publicly-traded company sounded like the perfect next step. But the day our plane touched down in our new hometown, the company’s stock price began to drop. I knew I couldn’t have been responsible, but I also knew that I was going to have to live in the wake of it. Several months later, sales began to slide. Several other divisions began bleeding red ink. Serious personnel problems loomed ominously on the horizon. The pressure was overwhelming.

Late one warm afternoon, I returned to my office from a particularly brutal meeting in the boardroom with the senior management team. I felt emotionally exhausted as I had never been before. I slumped into my chair, looking over my desk now completely covered with pink, call-back slips. Several had “Urgent” written on them in big letters. Then, my secretary appeared in the doorway, her arms full of computer printouts and the day’s mail.

“Can we do that in the morning, Sherry?” I whined, unable to hide my despair. “Sure,” she responded, lifting her voice in a genuine attempt to elevate my spirits. I thanked her for her flexibility and encouragement. Sherry closed the door behind her. 

Sliding the chair under my desk, I scanned all the things lying there, now screaming for my attention. But I couldn’t move. Maybe I’ll make a few calls, I thought to myself. But my hand wouldn’t lift to pick up the phone. “I’m frozen up,” I said out loud.  “I can’t do anything.”

Then an idea came flashing into my brain. Actually, I was surprised that there was anything left up there, but the idea actually boosted my spirits. I literally felt a quick burst of energy. “I’m going to call Doc,” I said out loud, talking as though there were someone else in my office. I still knew his direct number by heart. The phone on the other end only rang once. “Hello,” my former boss said in his familiar South Carolina drawl.

“Doc,” I said, choking back the tears, “it’s me.”

“Hello, Robert,” my old friend responded.  “How you doin’?” No words would come out of my mouth.  I tried to speak but could not say a thing.  In a moment, I was sobbing uncontrollably.  After a minute or two and a chance to regain my composure, I filled Doc in on what was going on and how poorly I was handling the pressure.

“How can I help you, my friend?” he finally said, his voice filled with genuine compassion. “Tell me what you’d do if you were me,” was my immediate response.

Over the next thirty minutes, my former boss, a seasoned veteran of stress and pressure, poured himself into me, filling me with assurance and wisdom I had never known before. Here I was, a blubbering neophyte, working for my former company’s toughest competitor, soaking in the kindness of an old friend—a man who should have celebrated the opposition’s misfortune.  The experience was life-changing.

“When the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us,” the Apostle Paul promises (Gal 5:22, TLB). When we have completely run out of answers.  When our solutions are woefully inadequate. When our energy and our desire to go on have reached the point of no return, God’s Holy Spirit picks up the phone on the first ring, and “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” are ours. Immediately.

Let the Sovereign God of the Universe lavish you with what you lack. Let His grace free your frozen up, aching soul. Be filled with His Spirit . . . He will deliver you. I promise.