Summary: We get bogged down by responsbilities. The way out is first to act responsibly, second to tell others what God is doing in you, and ultimately to yield to our Savior.
One afternoon I came by the church to pick up a few things. I parked around the back, and there discovered two of our members, plus our sexton, in major trouble.
These men had purchased a heavy-duty safe for the church office, and were intent on moving it inside. The safe had been hauled here on a small truck, and a hand dolly had been placed at just the right spot to receive the safe off the back end of the truck. The only trouble with that plan, however, was that the ground was wet and therefore muddy; and the truck was parked on a slight slope ... and so when the safe came off the truck bed and landed on the hand dolly, it promptly slid to one side, and mired itself in the mud.
By the time I got there, it was quite a mess. Everywhere mud. Feet and legs churning, trying to push what seemed like a ton of concrete and steel, but those feet going deeper into the mud, those legs just churning up the ground. A steel bar was being used to pry up one corner, but the steel bar was just pressing down into the mud. The harder these men worked, the more they got mired in the mud. Frankly, it looked hopeless to me.
I thought briefly about trying to help. But I had two good excuses: first, I had good clothes on. And second, I had something spiritual to do -- never had been so grateful for hospital visitation! And besides, one of these poor struggling souls muttered some comment about staying away unless I wanted to hear sane things that I might not want to quote from the pulpit. So I left.
About three or four hours later that evening, I returned, and they were all still here. So was the safe, and so was the mud. But this time there was a difference. They had gotten the safe out of the mud and were just about to bring it through the back doors, inside at last. All three of these men were a mess (at least two of them still are), they were cold and tired and worn out, but at last there were shouts of victory. They had moved the unmovable and had saved the unsaveable. How? How had they done it? It was really very simple: they had found some broad, flat, solid planks; they had placed these boards in the mud and had managed to get at least a corner of the safe up on those boards. And the strong, broad wood floated on top of the mud long enough and well enough that they could get some footing and lift that safe.
Wherein lies a parable: as the Greek philosopher Archimedes said, "Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world". If you have a place to stand, you can get out of the mud and the mire. You can be rescued from the quicksand. But without a place to stand, without a footing, you will sink in frustration.
If you have somewhere to stand, you can be drawn out of the mire. If you have a broad, strong floor under foot, you can find a secure footing. But lacking that, your life will dissolve in impatience.
By the way, I will not, of course, name any names. Naturally I would not want to violate anyone’ s privacy. The mere fact that two of the men in the choir are squirming right now should not tell you anything at all!
The psalmist says, "I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure ... Happy are those who make the Lord their trust."
I could not ask for a better image for the plight of this world and for our own lives -- this image of the desolate pit, the miry bog. We get mired down, bogged down, in the burdensome details of our lives. And we just cannot get a secure footing. We just cannot get started on going where we want to go. We are overwhelmed.
Now lots of us come out of the South, where we got used to dealing with red clay. That red clay earth does get slippery, and it does get messy: but for the most part, it packs hard, and you can walk on it even when it’s wet. But some of you are from New England or from some of the coastal areas, and you know what a bog is. You know that a bog may look like land. It has grasses growing on it; but it’s more water than earth. If you step in it, you sink, you get caught, and, in fact, the unsuspecting can die in these bogs. They’ve found the bodies of prehistoric people and animals preserved in bogs, where centuries ago they stepped in and quickly were overwhelmed. Like quicksand drawing them in, they were pulled down by their own weight and by the suction underneath, and the more they struggled, the more they were doomed.