Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. -- Micah 7:8
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
The Parable of the Mudhole
For various reasons, most of which probably should not be discussed in detail, darkness falls on me from time to time. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing (Romans 7:19). If I have learned anything, it is that when I can’t see where I am going, the best thing to do is stop and wait for the light. It’s a good thought, but what if the light does not come? Wait for it.
I have screwed up just about everything it is possible to screw up, but the worst screw ups all too often result from trying to fix a screw up. Let’s say that you are trying to put something together, and you drop some essential fastener down a duct. Not that that would ever happen in real life. You’re a little peeved as you pull the grate, but the fastener is right there hanging. Then it falls down into the duct, but it’s still in sight, not yet around the bend. You reach for it and almost have it, but it slips and rolls away over the event horizon. You wonder why they didn’t put the ductwork in the attic. An hour later, the fastener has been joined in the black hole under your floor by a magnet that came loose from the string and some vacuum cleaner attachments. Meanwhile the original projects remains in disarray, all but forgotten in the angst and frustration.
We had to plow up a ten-acre section of our biggest hay field. Dad did the plowing one evening while I milked. The next morning was too good a hunting day to pass up, so he loaded his hounds and told me to hook up the disk and get the field ready to sow. I might have been thirteen at the time, old enough to be trusted with some things. The disk was an old heavy drag type. It may have originally been horse-drawn. It certainly wasn’t designed for three-point equipment. We hooked it to a drawbar. If I remember right, there was a lever that raised the plates a little for transport.
I got over to the field and started around. This field has a natural pond in it, and several places near the pond, it is seepy. I didn’t really think it through too well and just assumed that I was supposed to disk what was plowed. Right next to the pond, I hit a spot that had no bottom and stuck it.
OK, I could go do something else and leave the tractor and disk buried. I knew that would make Dad mad because it would have made me mad: nothing accomplished and more work to do. I got off the tractor, walked away and sat down on the broken ground. The tractor wasn’t buried or high-centered. It looked like it would come out. If I could have raised the disk, the whole she-bang looked like it would come out, but I couldn’t do that. I got down in the mud and disconnected then drove the tractor onto solid ground. It was a matter of feet. Then, instead of giving up and going to the house, I walked away and sat down again to think.
I don’t remember – this was most of a half century ago – if the log chain was on something nearby or if I saw it in a vision. Anyway, I got the chain, put one end around the hitch on the disk and the other around the drawbar on the tractor. To my utter amazement, the disk came right out, nothing busted, nothing hurt. A couple of short ruts and a wallowed spot were the only remaining indications of my struggle. I kept the chain with me the rest of the day but had no more need for it.
I’ll bet I sat on that tractor ten minutes cussing myself and my stupidity. I could have sat there all day and never figured a way out. It was walking away and getting a different perspective that allowed me to see the solution.
It was my fault that I got stuck there. When I experience a moral or spiritual failure and fall that, too, is my own fault. There’s no point in blaming anyone else, but there’s also no point in wasting too much time blaming myself. If I can somehow rectify the situation, I need to find a way to do that. Repentance is changing the way we think about something. We could depict it as getting off the tractor and looking at the place in which we have been mired from a different angle, from the solid ground of God’s viewpoint.
We can’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and we can’t get out of a pit by digging the hole deeper. We have to find an anchor that will hold. We have to have a purchase on the Rock of reality if we are going to pull our lives out of the muck and the mire.
Sometimes when we are sitting in the dark, God will shine his light on the key we would never have seen in the broad glare of day.