i've just so happened to live a life with a lot of crazy stories attached to it in 27 years, and one of those stories happened at 15 in my first experience with missions. teen missions international changed my life and the lives of my siblings and so many other people i know. take any teen away from home for two months and show them how the world lives, they are bound to come back different people.
TMI is different from a lot of other organizations in that they believe in taking all their team members through a two week boot camp to prepare them for the field they'll be working in. we got to do fun things like sleep in tents in the swamps of florida, sweat literal pounds of weight off and run an obstacle course every morning.
i'm not going to lie, i was one of those weird kids that loved running the OC. it was no joke and they made us do some pretty insane things like running through the swamps, over a mountain of tires (mt sinai duh.) climbing over a 30 foot rope ladder and getting our whole team over a 12 foot wall. every obstacle had a biblical theme and even though i was sweating so bad and a little delirious from how bad my mosquito bites were itching, here i am, 12 years later and those obstacles and what it meant to conquer them, still hasn't left me.
which brings me to the slough of despond. the best way i can describe that is a pit full of muddy water with ropes hanging down in the middle. you get a running start and hurl yourself as hard as you can trying to grab the rope and swing across without falling in. (i would like to go on record by saying i never fell in once hashtag athletic.) this morning i was watching videos of some of my teenage friends who are in bootcamp right now crossing that pit, and you know me, i cried.
i watched kids run and jump fearlessly for the rope. i watched two friends hold hands and lean out barely able to grab it, and i watch a ton of kids fall in. i think i cried because i know what each of those feels like. i know what its like to be fearless and to know that muddy water can't touch you. i know what it feels like to have a friend willing to stay with you and hold your hand so you can grab the lifeline to get you over. and i know what its like to fall in, and feel alone as your feet stick to the bottom and your teammates swing by you not knowing how gross the water feels.
the slough of despond is taken from pilgrims progress. basically Christian (the main character) and his buddy are walking along not paying attention when they both fall in. they fight it at first but then Christian starts to sink. his friend can't see him anymore and asks where he is, his reply is "truly, i do not know."
the friend then blames Christian for the mess they're in, struggles back the way he came and leaves Chris in the mire to struggle alone. and he does struggle for a while, he struggles against loss of hope, the definition of despondency. i think our guy had almost given up when it says,
"then a man came to him whose name was HELP."
if you've never read the story let me tell you what HELP didn't do. HELP didn't try to coach Christian out of the slough, he didn't remind him that he was the one who walked into it, he didn't talk with his friends about why he was struggling, he simply said,
"Give me thy hand." So he gave him his hand, and he drew him out; and set him upon some ground, and bade him go on his way.
"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." Psalm 40:2
so three things i'm reminding myself today:
- if i'm going to be like Jesus, i've got to be aware of who is in the pit.
- if i'm in the mire, Jesus is the only one able to pull me out. but he calls me to reach for him. even if that's over and over again.
- there is purpose in the mud.
one of my favorite things about the slough at bootcamp was watching the people who had fallen in, wade through, grab that rope and swing it back to the people trying to get across. that picture is burned in my brain that when i am struggling the Lord has allowed me to get down here so that i can grab the rope for someone else. when i take my eyes off my circumstances and put them on the cross and on his people, that's when i'm reminded that my help comes from the Lord. grabbing the rope reminds me that i'm halfway and halfway is almost there.