I was reading today from the Upper Room devotional, and I was transported back in time to the spring that I was seven years old.
My family lived on the west side of Evansville and across the field and a couple of neighbors’ back yards, there was a creek, that was normally a foot or so deep. But because of the rainy spring, it was to the top of its banks, closer to three feet.
I had an older brother growing up named Jim. Jim and I were born on the same day, five years apart. But I always said, Jim-and-I, like the zodiac ‘Gemini’, because we were so close. Through the years, there were times that we ‘knew’ things about each other that were unexplainable. I thought it was a weird take on the connection that twins have. But now, looking back, I can see that God’s hand was busy guiding us.
One day that spring, Jim had invited a couple of guys to spend the night and the next morning they headed out to explore the woods that lay just on the other side of the creek. Jim had some planks that he was going to lay across the creek, to make it more of an adventure and I, being the pesky younger sister, begged to go. Not only was Jim adamant that he did not want his kid sister tagging along, but my mother was as well. She knew the creek was flooded and was leery about letting the boys go. There was no way she was going to let me go with them. But I continued to pester her as the boys prepared to leave. I asked so many times she finally had to tell me not to ask or I would get a spanking.
So, sulking and feeling extremely mistreated, I went to my room. (Probably shut the door very firmly, but not so firm as to cause my mother to seek me out!) It wasn’t fair…just because he was older, I had to stay at home like a baby. It didn’t take long to convince myself that I had been unjustly treated and that I should just go and prove that I could do all the things the older boys were planning on doing.
By the time I climbed out my window onto our enclosed back porch, snuck out and around the corner of the house and made it to the creek, the boys were no where in sight. I was about to turn around and go back home, when out of the corner of my eye, a little ways down the creek, I saw the planks that they had brought to cross over. As I walked to the planks, I noticed how fast the water was moving…much faster than the previous summer, when we sat on the banks and caught crawdads. But hey, if the boys made it over okay, then so could I.
It wasn’t that it was far across…less than six feet. But the planks that had been dry when the boys crossed, were not wet from the water splashing up on them and slippery. I scooted my right foot slowly onto one of the planks. It felt pretty solid, so I put my left foot on the other plank and started across. I think I would have been fine, if I had just kept my eyes on the planks or even the other bank. But for some reason, when I had taken only a couple of steps, I looked to my left at the water rushing toward me. I’d never seen the creek look like this and it was frightening. As I tried to hurry across, my right foot hit an empty space between the two planks. I twisted and grabbed for something to hold onto but all I came up with was air. Just like that, I was in the water.
I came immediately back up to the surface and grabbed at the closest plank, but it was too slick for me to pull myself back up and just moved like it would fall in on top of me. I kicked my way to the bank I’d come from. I grabbed at the grass but it too slid from my hands. I kicked at the muddy bank until my feet stuck into the mud. Now I had some leverage. I grabbed the grass again and pulled my self upward. Just as I let go with one hand to grab grass farther up, something bumped into my leg, causing me to twist and fall back into the water. Now, I was twisted with my feet stuck into the mud and I couldn’t tell which way was up.
Oh God, Oh God, please help. I thrashed and tried to pull my feet out, but they were stuck good. I felt something grab at my hair and I began to panic. I tried to pull away from it, but it pulled harder. The next thing I knew, I was being hauled from the water onto the bank. It was Jim. He had been just a little ways into the woods when a feeling came over him that he couldn’t shake, so he headed back for home. When he got to the creek, he noticed the planks were not straight like they had put them and he had to stop and fix one of them so he could walk across. This caused him to slow down and as he crossed over, he looked down and saw something in the water…my long blonde hair. When he got to the bank, he just reached over, grabbed my hair and pulled me out.
You know, this was the first, but not the last time I would have trouble with that creek. (Some of you may have read about my adventure with my mother’s boots) It wasn’t the last time I disobeyed my parents. And, as I got older, there were many times that I did things because I felt justified or unappreciated and felt as though I deserved better. That attitude of disobedience and rebellion cause me a lot of heartache. It also caused my parents some sleepless nights.
Psalm 40:2 says, The Lord lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
You would think after my early experience with the ‘mud and mire’ I wouldn’t have strayed like I did. But there were years of mud, mire, slimy pits and dark places that I put myself in, until I realized all I had to do was to cry out, Oh God, please help me. No matter how many times I had put myself in these dark places, God was ready to pull me into his arms and forgive me.
Now I try to avoid the slippery banks and slimy pits. I don’t walk to the edge of the cliff and look over. I draw a line in the sand and stand firm on the rocks that Jesus gave me. The rock of prayer, study, meditation. Rocks of discipline and obedience. Oh I still stumble. But the thing is, if you stumble while you are on the rock, the rock is there, ready to support you again. If you walk to the edge of the cliff of temptation, you have no where to go but down. But even if you fall and we all will, there is one who can set you back on the rocks…if you just cry out to him.
For the Lord on high
And He heard my cry
He pulled me out of my despair
He taught me how to walk
From fear into security
From quicksand to the Rock
I sing to let the people know
That I have been restored
And they will kneel and understand
To return and trust in the Lord