Friday, May 11, 2018

The Muddy Pit

In Pittsburgh we have something that is nicknamed The T. It basically amounts to a subway that can make travel a lot better. On the day of the Pittsburgh Marathon, you can ride for free which makes parking easier on the outskirts because you can get where you need to go much easier.

The thing about riding though is that if you aren't fortunate enough to get a seat, you'd better have a tight grip on the bar above, one of the straps hanging from the bar, or a pole that comes up from an aisle seat. There aren't any hills of course, but the suddent starts and stops, as well as the obvious bends, can knock a girl to her feet pretty easily. Not that this has happened, but considering I have a hard enough time walking on flat surfaces without hurting myself, a moving surface while I am standing is bound to be hazardous.

I thought about The T this morning in reading Psalm 40. Not that I would consider The T a muddy pit by any stretch of the imagination, but I was thinking about what it would be like to get out of a muddy pit. If our shoes are slipping, if we can't get a grip on anything, and if we are trying to claw our way up, chances are we are going to slide. This leaves us with two options. Either someone swoops down and lifts us out with no effort on our part or they reach out a steady, strong hand and help us walk up the slippery sides by making our steps secure. But there's a catch. We can't let go because if we do, we'll be back at the bottom in a flash.

Now the pit might not seem like a great place to be. Chances are it's gross, if it's muddy, it's obviously dirty, and if you're like me and the smell of mud makes your stomach turn, it won't be a pleasant environment. But can it still have purpose? Undoubtedly. Sometimes the pit gives us just enough time to take a good look at reality.

But my questions are this: If we are to patiently wait for the LORD until He turns to us and hears our cry for help, what does patient waiting look like and how long does it take us to cry out?

I'll be honest, the first question I have no answer for. I have to wrestle that one out because I think it is the perfect blend of continuing to do what we know we are called to do and being still before God. Basically, not freezing in place but not trying to control and maniupulate the outcome or ending time.

The second part is where I think a lot of us struggle. We like to think we are considerably more independent than we are and we don't like to feel or appear weak.

But to who? Others or God?

First, let's be honest. Whether we or anyone else admits it, there is a part in all of us that wants someone to come in and save the day, make all the decisions and fix everything because we are tired of feeling the weight of responsibility we put on our own shoulders

Second, if we think we can hide our weakness from God, we are not only kidding ourselves, but we are seriously disillusioned. He made us, He knows our weaknesses, and I believe He put them there very much on purpose so that we would depend on Him and cry out to Him. Why? Because He set the system up for success.

I know that sounds really weird.

But think about it. If God knows we can do nothing apart from Him, then by creating us with a need for Him, we are bound to be fruitful if we can (a) admit our need and (b) ask for help. He didn't do this so He can watch us flounder, He did it so He can help us climb out of the pits we find ourselves in from our stubborn independence, put our feet on a firm place to stand like His love and faithfulness, and then help us run the race He called us to without breaking our necks or twisting our ankles.

If you're like me, crying out is about as attractive as the idea of watching a scary movie alone at night in the dark. Why? Because I blame myself for everything. I see every bad decision as the direct cause of my circumstances and figure I got myself into the mess and I need to get myself out.

But that's bad theology in more ways than I can list.

Because whether or not it was a less than stellar moment of weakness or a sincere belief that this time would be different, God created me and knows the ways I think and why those patterns exist. And He's not unsympathetic to my predispositions. In fact, He is so empathetic to them, He doesn't want me to live that way and so He is not only willing to help, He actually wants to help. He wants to be my grip bar.

The best illustration I can give you is this: On the day I got married I was an emotional wreck. I cried so hard walking down the aisle people had questions running through their minds I won't share. And in the picture of my horribly red face streaked with tears, you can see my poor dad's hand turning white because I was gripping it with everything I had. I did not want to fall and I could feel every ounce of weakness in me. Would I be enough for the long haul? Was I going to wake up from what was bound to be the best two year dream? I was filled with both excitement and fear and it was overwhelming.

And do you know what I would have never thought of doing? Walking down the aisle alone. I knew without a doubt I needed my dad's help. And I didn't have to ask him to do it. He wanted to. Why? Because I'm his daughter and he knew I couldn't do it on my own and so he was going to be there for me.

That's the relationship God wants with us. He wants us to white knuckle grip Him because He knows we are scared, He knows why we are scared, and He's going to lead us through it to the end. He's not letting go, ever. And the best news, we can't hurt Him with our weakness because He overcomes it all with His perfect strength.

I don't know how to make crying out a natural response. It seems like as babies we do it all the time and then somewhere along the lines we just stop because we gain a little bit of ability to meet a need and it becomes a vicious cycle of positive reinforcement of a negative behavior. And maybe it's just as simple as recognizing the tension in our souls as a prompt to scream HELP ME as loud as we can. Because the truth is, we weren't created to do it alone and the sooner we realize that, the more stable we'll be.

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