From the time my younger daughter, Carolyn, was old enough to walk, she was determined to play outside. As a young toddler, she’d wrap her chubby little hand around my finger and lead me across the grass, twigs, and leaves in our yard, pointing and grunting at things she saw while I named each astounding item: “beetle”, “roly-poly”, “dandelion”, “maple leaf”. As she grew older, she excitedly pointed out what she saw: “bee-doh”, “woh-wee-poh-wee”, “dandewion”, “mabel weef”. We’d go out every Tuesday and Thursday morning while her older sister was in preschool to catch frogs and grasshoppers. Once she even caught a dragonfly and kept it perched on her index finger for the entire 20-minute car ride to show her sister when we picked her up from preschool. We nicknamed her the Bug Whisperer. She thrives in the great outdoors even to this day, and I’ve often said that if I were ever stranded in the woods, I would want Carolyn there as my survivalist guide.
There’s an old southern idiom which says, “You’ve got to eat a peck of dirt before you die.” It’s usually understood to mean that no one can escape eating a certain amount of dirt on his or her food, or that everyone must endure a number of unpleasant things in his or her lifetime. In Carolyn’s case, I believe she consumed the ‘whole peck’ all at once while trying to cross a footbridge to arrive at our mailbox! Her daddy had constructed a makeshift plank boardwalk over a ditch to create a shortcut from our front yard to the mailbox at the road. It was narrow but sturdy. Unfortunately for Carolyn, her little three-year-old legs were not so sturdy as she tried to run across it. I tried to get her to hold my hand as she walked across, but she insisted, “No, I do it!” Losing her balance, she fell face first into the ditch with a SPLAT! Or maybe it was more of a SQUOCHHTT! I’m trying to recreate the sound of the thick, squishy, black, swampy muck that we have in southeast Georgia. You get the idea.
Needless to say, when I grabbed her by the back of her denim overall straps, she came up spluttering and crying, a little bit frightened and, I suspect, a bit angry and insulted that nature would turn on her like that. Her face was covered, COVERED, in the thick, black, muck—in the eyes, up the nose, in the left ear, you name it. I carried her in the house and got her in the tub quickly to flush her out, praying that amoebas didn’t live in the ditch, thankful there were no leeches, and giggling just a bit I must admit at the sight of her. I cleaned out her ears, carefully rinsed out her eyes, and had her blow her nose several times. She fought me a smidgin, thrashing uncomfortably with the process of getting the sludge out of her nooks and crannies, but I gently and carefully tended to her, wiping her down with a washcloth and rinsing of the soap until the tub water was muddy and I was satisfied that she was clean and back to herself again.
This same situation may have happened to us all, metaphorically speaking. We are traveling along, making our way through life when we come upon a questionable path, something that we may not be equipped to handle on our own, honestly. We may sense that God is wanting to help us, or even guide us away from this decision, this path if you will. But instead of taking His hand to steady us or walk with us, we respond with, “No, I do it!”, and God, who allows us to exercise our free will, permits us to proceed independently. The next thing we know, we’ve fallen head first into a ditch and now we’re stuck in the muck!
Thankfully, our heavenly Father doesn’t cruelly leave us there. Instead, once we acknowledge our need for help, He grabs us swiftly and pulls out of the miry clay. He carries us away with Him, and begins to clean us off, gently removing the muck of our own making. The mud is rinsed, and at times we fight Him a smidgin, spluttering and thrashing a bit in the process. He works with us until He is satisfied that we are back to ourselves again. How do I know this? I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve certainly gotten myself stuck in the muck and undergone the process of having to be made right again with God and the world. We also can find scripture that describes God’s willingness to restore after someone has fallen head first into the ditch.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God (Ps. 40:1-3).
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!…
…Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me (Ps. 51:1-2; 10).
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).
If you find yourself stuck in the muck today, the Bible is very clear to explain that God longs to redeem you. In fact, that’s the very reason Jesus Christ was born! From before time began, God knew us, and He knew we would fall and be in need of a Savior. No one can make it through this life unscathed. That’s a fact; however, God doesn’t desire that anyone remain stuck in a ditch. Call to Him today. He stands ready, with His arm extended, to pick you up and clean you off. He’ll cleanse you and set you on a firm foundation. All you need to do is ask.
**If you want to receive this incredible love that God offers freely to you, the first step to allowing that love in is to say to him, “Jesus, I know that I have sinned and have fallen short of perfection. I believe that You died for my sins and that You were buried and rose again on the third day. I surrender my life to You. Please forgive me and be the leader of my life. I know that I am now Yours and You are mine. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”