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Get Out of That Pit
By Beth Moore
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Beth Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLife in the Pit
You don't have to stay there. Even if you've been there your whole life, you can call it a day. Even if you deserve the pit you live in, you're still not stuck there. Maybe you're the noble type trying to make the best of your pit. You keep wondering why you can't get satisfied there. Why you aren't mature enough to be content where you are. After all, didn't the apostle Paul tell us that we should learn to be content in any circumstance?
Has it occurred to you that maybe a pit is one place where you're not supposed to be content? Maybe you should thank God you're not. Some things weren't meant to be accepted. A pit is one of them. Quit trying to make the best of it. It's time to get out. When Christ said, "Come, follow me," inherent in His invitation to come was the equivalent invitation to leave. The laws of physics tell you that if you try to go one place without leaving another, you're in for a pretty severe stretch. And you can only do the splits so long.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about picking up and leaving a physical place-although that may ultimately prove necessary. And if you're married, Lord help me, I'm certainly not talking about leaving your spouse. I'mtalking about leaving a dwelling far more intimate than the place where you get your mail-I'm talking about a shadowy home of the heart, mind, and soul so close and personal that, like mud on the set of tires, we drag it along wherever our physical circumstances move us.
No matter where we go, a pit can always fit. On any path we can spin our wheels and throw mud until we dig a ditch right into the middle of an otherwise decent job or relationship. Soon our hearts sink with the dismal realization that we're no better off in our new situation. The scenery around us may have changed, but we're still living in that same old pit. We start scrambling to figure out how we're going to dump an unpleasant person or position when the real solution may be to dump that pit we dragged in. The problem is the pit can be so close we can't see it.
My man, our two dogs, and I just got home from a seven-teen-hundred-mile road trip sewing five states together like a patchwork quilt. It's something we do several times a year. For hours on end Beanie sniffs the air conditioner in search of game birds (Beanie is one of the dogs, not the man) and Sunny never quits smiling unless she needs to scratch. The glee rolls on and the miles roll by until someone gets a little cranky. I'll not name names, but God forgives the lapses and has even extended many a tender mercy by providing a timely respite from the open road. He shows us all sorts of favor, like causing espresso bars to pop up in places so remote I end up wondering later if they were really there at all. I figure they were mirages we'd never find again in a million years. But as long as the refreshment hits the spot, I don't care if it's all in my mind. I've had the best medium-dry cappuccinos in the world in places so far out that an extra shot is what you take when you missed the deer the first time.
Unfortunately, our traveling snobbery only goes as far as our coffee. When you insist on traveling cross-country with two sizable canines, you get to save your cash on motel rooms. We mostly stay in lodgings that have numbers in the names. No matter what the chain, all discount rooms are nearly identical, with angular double beds covered by the same navy-blue spreads ordered from a catalog back in '72. The stitching has long since come undone, and when you turn over in the bed your little toes get tangled in the loose threads. I sleep between Keith (that's my man) and Beanie and, from the sound of things, each has a deviated septum. I respond by turning up the air conditioning unit which, in turn, responds by freezing up and shutting down.
A traveler at heart, I still wake up happy and start my abbreviated morning routine. The shampoo comes in a small single-serving pouch I have to open with my teeth. I spit out what gets in my mouth and quickly lather the rest of it on my head. I have a mass of hair so, understandably, I can't spare a drop. Keith ends up having to use the generic white bar soap on his hair. It tends to leave a film, but it's a small price for him to pay for my hair. Particularly small compared to what he pays for me to maintain my highlights. He can wear a baseball cap anyway.
Folks who know how much we travel sometimes ask me why we don't get an RV. The answer, in a word: the bathroom. (Or is that two words?) The small space and lack of fresh air in an RV makes the presence of a bathroom so ... well ... inescapable. They say you get used to it, but do I really want to? What does it mean when we no longer notice that smell? Nope, the way I see it, we were not meant to get used to some things.
Like living in a pit.
But unfortunately, we do. We can grow so accustomed to the surroundings of our pit that we wouldn't think of moving on without it.
Let's say for years you've been living in an old RV so small you can't stretch your legs or stand up straight. Visualize the clutter of too much baggage in too small a space. Imagine the unavoidable odor of that cramped lavatory. Your clothes even start to smell like it. Or is it your hair?
Now, imagine that you've been offered a brand-new home. A real one on a solid foundation with big closets and wide-open spaces. You can hardly wait to move in. Filled with anticipation, you rev up the motor of the old RV and plow it right into the new living room, taking out a wall or two on the way. Ah, finally! A new place to call home! You settle back in your RV seat, take a deep breath and poise yourself to feel something fresh. Something different.
Then it hits you: that deep breath tasted a lot like that old lavatory. You'd hoped for a change, but your soul sinks with the realization that, though you're somewhere new, everything feels and smells hauntingly familiar.
As disheartening as this realization may be, it could turn out to be the best news you've heard all year. If it wakes you up to the possibility that every situation you're in feels like a pit because you're taking your pit with you, you've just learned something you really need to know: you could quit driving that stinking RV around. This is a glorious exception to the "If the shoe fits, wear it" rule. Even if the steering wheel fits, you don't have to keep gripping it.
If you figure out you're the one driving that old RV, please understand right now that the last thing I want to do is shame you. The only reason I recognize a mobile pit dweller is because it takes one to know one. I just may have stumbled on the one thing I'm an expert on: life in the pit. When it comes to pits, I guess I've lived in every conceivable kind. I've done the tour, trading in one model for another from childhood well into adulthood. A pit was my ever present hell in times of trouble. And the only reason I've got the audacity to write this book is because I'm not there anymore. I got out because something-Someone-worked for me. Trust me when I tell you this: if I can get out, anybody can.
I might have kept this pit stop to myself except for something a number of people recently told me. Several months ago God threw me into His Word to perform a sort of analysis of what a pit is exactly. I plopped open my trusty concordance, looked up every occasion where the term was used, and went to work. There in the pages of Scripture God showed me three ways we can get into a pit and a couple of ways we can get out. The message fell so fresh on me that in the months that followed I delivered some form of it at three very different gatherings. The first was a group of four thousand women of all ages in California. The second was also a group of thousands, but this event was comprised entirely of college girls. The third was a very polished studio audience at a taping for television.
Toward the end of each message I asked the same questions. The first: "After all you've learned biblically about a pit, how many of you would say you've been in one?" In all three groups, every single hand in sight shot up into the air. Not surprising. The second question: "How many of you have gotten into various pits all three ways I spoke about?" Almost every single hand came up, mine included. I asked them to close their eyes for the last question: "How many of you would say you are in a pit right now?" To my surprise, a stunning majority of timid hands inched up-only shoulder high, just in case their neighbors were peeking.
So, what's the big surprise? If I were a betting woman, I'd have wagered all three groups contained the cream of the crop of God-seeking, Jesus-following women. Many of them have been in Bible studies for years. Scads of them are considered successful by their peers. Others look to them as the examples. As for the college girls, significant numbers of them sense God's call on their lives. Plenty are spiritual ... and miserable.
I've come to the conclusion that vastly more people are miserable than not. Far more feel defeated than victorious. If pressed, tens of thousands would confess that "it" doesn't work as well as they'd hoped. Masses of believers are totally bewildered-if not in outright despair. Yep, poker faces aside, they're in a pit. Not without cause, but absolutely, across the board, unnecessarily. I've also come to the conclusion that some pits are just decorated to look prettier than others. Don't let any- body kid you, though. A pit is a pit.
That's the trouble. Too often we don't recognize a pit when we're in one. So why would we think we need to get out? One reason some of you nicer folks are in a pit without realizing it is because you mistakenly characterize pits only in terms of sin. In our Christian subculture, we think a pit of sin is the only kind there is. But as we perform a biblical analysis of a pit, we're going to have to think much broader than that. We need a way to identify pits and know when we're in them. So here goes: you can know you're in a pit when ...
You feel stuck. Isaiah 42:22 says that a pit is a place where you feel trapped. You tend to feel your only options are to misbehave (i.e., have a kicking and screaming fit, hoping your flailing can help you escape) or submit (i.e., consider you made your own bed and decide to die in it). Psalm 40 adds to the characteristics of a pit words like "slimy," "muddy," "miry." Together these words tell us one critical thing about a pit: you can't get yourself out.
Been there in more ways than one. Keith waited only a few months into our marriage before trying to turn his animal-rights wife into a hunter. He thought it wisest to start with creatures that were furless. Feathers, he reasoned, would make the hunt seem less personal. He dressed me for my first and only goose hunt in the last pair of rubber boots under a size 12 at the army surplus. He realized at the checkout that they were both right feet, but since they were a bit large he thought they'd work just fine. Smiling ear to ear like he'd bagged a ten-point buck, Keith plopped those black monsters right in front of me. I looked down at the tips of two boots making the same turn then stared at him for the longest. I told him that wherever we were going, I hoped it was to the right.
Dawn was unmerciful. I found myself trudging behind him way too early on a cold morning in a flooded rice field outside of Houston. Every third step I took, one of my right feet got stuck in the mud until finally one of them stuck so deeply that, for the life of me, I couldn't get myself out.
"Pull, Baby! Pull!" Keith cheered.
"I'm trying!" I yelled. "They won't come up!"
Every second I stood there, I sunk another inch. When the oozing mud began toppling into my boots, I finally did what any self-respecting woman would do: I bawled. Exasperated, Keith turned around and started back for me. He was muttering something under his breath that I couldn't exactly make out, but I was pretty sure somebody needed to wash his mouth out. I was also pretty sure he was in no mood for it to be me. He tugged and tugged until he pulled my stocking feet right out of my boots. We hiked back to the car early that day, birdless, bootless, and with me on his back. It wasn't the last time.
Sinking inch by inch. That's what happens in a pit. Jeremiah knew the feeling and, mind you, he hadn't even sinned his way into it. Jeremiah 38:6 describes his pit as a place of sinking down. Imagine how much worse it was with sandals. No matter what's on your feet, you can take this fact to the spiritual bank: a pit only gets deeper. Low ground always sinks. There's no living at maintenance level in a pit.
You'd think enough has already been said about the irony of Christians and substandard living ... even from my own loud mouth and scrawling pen. I don't know why, but it drives me nuts that people stay in bad places when they don't have to. That's a big part of what makes a pit a pit. Feeling stuck.
I guess it drives me nuts to see them living in those pits because I've been there. I was stuck quite a while myself before I realized I didn't have to stay there. And now that I'm no longer stuck, I want everybody else out of that trap.
You can't stand up. In Psalm 69:2, David cried out, "I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing" (NKJV). If you're not already convinced, it's time you accepted the biblical fact that your soul has a very real enemy, and he is not flesh and blood. We can't keep on ignoring someone who is systematically trying to destroy our lives. The passivity has got to go. Ephesians 6:11 implores us, "Take your stand against the devil's schemes." Your stand. No one can stand indefinitely for you. If you and I are going to be victorious people, we've got to stand with our own two feet on solid ground. Ephesians 6:13 exhorts, "Stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
One way you can know you're in a pit is that you feel ineffective and utterly powerless against attack. You can't stand up to assaults, trials, or temptations because your feet are in the mud and mire. You experience what the psalmist experienced and what I certainly experienced-you're in a place "where there is no standing." That's why the testimony of the person rescued from the pit paints this vivid picture of an all-new venue: "He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand" (Psalm 40:2b).
I beg you to see that your enemy has a tremendous investment not only in digging and camouflaging a pit in your path-way but also, should you tumble down, in convincing you to stay there after you fall in. He knows that in his pit you will feel powerless to stand up against him. There you are vulnerable to him and out of his way.
To the ancient Hebrew, a pit was a literal or figurative reference to the grave-to its threat-or to an abyss so deep the dweller within it felt like the living dead. Been there? Me too. Drawing from the figurative application, we'll define pit this way: a pit is an early grave that Satan digs for you in hopes he can bury you alive. Should you fall into it, make no mistake; he cannot make you stay. Ironically, neither will God make you leave. Like it or not, some things are simply up to us.
You've lost vision. Unlike that rank old RV, pit shave no windows. Scripture paints them as places of darkness. I'm not talking about demonic darkness, although if we go deep enough and stay long enough, we will certainly encounter the darkness of utter evil. I'm talking about something more basic than that. I'm referring to the kind of darkness that simply impairs our vision. A pit is so poorly lit we can no longer see things that may have once been obvious to us. That's another reason we often stay in a pit. Without windows we're convinced we have nowhere else to go. Yes, we can always look up-goodness knows that's the only opening we have-but we're often too focused on our sinking feet to crane our necks to the blinding sky. We become what the Bible calls stiff necked. The close confinement of a pit exhausts us with the endless echo of self-absorption. Visibility extends no further than six inches from our noses. We can't see out, so we turn our sights in. After a while, nearsightedness breeds hopelessness. We feel too buried in our present state to feel passionate about a promised future.
Created in the image of God, we are meant to brim over with creativity. Yes, that means you. Don't tell me you're not the creative type. I'm not talking right-brain-versus left-brain drivel. I'm not talking about accountant types versus actor types. All image-bearers of God were intended to overflow with effervescent life, stirring and spilling with God-given vision. That's partly what the apostle Paul was talking about when he prayed that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened in order that we might know the hope to which Christ has called us (see Ephesians 1:18). The Amplified Bible calls it "having the eyes of your heart flooded with light." That's what you miss in the pit.
Excerpted from Get Out of That Pit by Beth Moore Copyright © 2007 by Beth Moore. Excerpted by permission.
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