My childhood home was a tribute to Dad’s determination. After his work day he traveled miles to the land on Angel Fork and labored till the wee hours connecting the parts to make a house. We were moving to the country, true pioneers out to scratch an existence from the wilderness.
The land overlooked a swamp replete with serenading frogs in spring followed by swarms of child-eating mosquitoes in summer. Dusk brought the harmony of crickets and their backup vocalists in a concert that continued well past bedtime. The country air wafted organic scents rather than the stench of exhaust fumes and chemical factory discharges we endured in town.
The swamp was once a flowing creek severed by a wild man with a bulldozer. His incomplete work stranded a portion of the ancient creek bed, a gash several feet deep, along the two-track dirt road (ironically named Main Drive) that paralleled our front yard. We called the crevice, “The Hole”. Seemed a good name then, and I’ve found nothing better since.
Rocks tossed into the stagnant waters of The Hole stirred aromas I’d never experienced. The gurgle of the sinking stones gave credence to my belief The Hole was deep, maybe miles into the center of the earth. The black water never receded even in the hottest Augusts, so I never knew for certain.
Giant snapping turtles navigated the putrid waters and Mom attempted to circumvent our zoological tendencies with her timely reminder that a snapping turtle, once latched to a foot or hand, would remain in place until the next thunder. Who wants to live with a turtle snagged on my arm? How would I eat, visit the facility, or even sleep? Mom was full of wise warnings.
Dad had a number of pet projects such as recruiting his sons to bust big rocks with a sledge hammer to make gravel to upgrade Main Drive. The hardtop was a muddy 100 yards distant. Shaping a backyard from the encroaching hillside was another of his interests, and that involved my dirt-moving muscles coupled with his skill at shaping rock to erect a retaining wall that would become his masterpiece.
The Hole represented another challenge for Dad, like parachuting into a jungle with only a Bowie knife and starting a new civilization. Dad decided to conquer that remnant of prehistoric times and fill it level with the road.
Rusted bikes, car parts, old wheelbarrows, tree trunks, even swing sets went into that murky water. Dad’s response to “Where should I put this?” was always the same. “Throw it in The Hole.” We did for years, but The Hole swallowed all we tossed overboard.
The property produced truck-loads of leaves in autumn, and I raked, hauled, and poured tons into The Hole over the years. By my teens the leaves had formed a jetty which made dumping easier. It was about this time the State of West Virginia decided to build a road uphill from the swamp to replace one devoured by a hillside wrecked by gravity and the elements. Instead of shovels and wheelbarrows the workers used giant earth-moving equipment. In short order the swamp was erased, and the machines moved toward The Hole. Loads of stone and soil tumbled down the banks, and a heavy dozer tracked back and forth to settle the fill. The Hole and its eclectic contents were lost to history.
The image of The Hole flashed on the screen of my mind as I read this verse:
Who redeems your life from the pit…
Psalm 103:4 (NASB)
We’ve all been in the pit of despair a time or two. Perhaps we’ve poured loads of effort into finding and building our life’s purpose only to see our work sink into the morass of uncertainty. We struggle and flail in desperation, but the pit anchors us in its steely embrace. There is hope. Psalm 103 opens with the identity of One who can lift us out of the mire.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Psalm 103:1 (NASB)
God gives meaning to life. He stands ready to adopt us into His family and He offers the satisfaction of belonging, of having a reason to exist. Jesus shared this word:
…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 (NASB)
We can quit slogging through our days, lift our heads, and enjoy a life of purpose. Want to climb out of the pit? Take the hand Jesus extends toward you, and let Him lift you onto solid ground. He can and He does make a difference.