By Gary Piper
Before going further I would like to preface this entry a comment and a couple of quotes from a book I am currently reading. First of all I have temporarily suspended my current series “Grapes the Simplicity of Prayer” when you finish reading this you may not understand why but at least you’ll know why. What follows is my “book” of which Stephen Smith wrote about in his book quoted below. “Perhaps we all have a book in our hearts… that speaks the truth so bluntly, so truthfully, so courageously, that it unsettles those around us who want to avoid facing the dark places of life.” While I can’t possibly know if your one of those people who “avoid facing the dark places of life” I am not, however writing my story is “another story” and because it is telling it is going to be hard because it exposes a side of me I admit and at the same time not really that comfortable for me to allow you inside.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that says we must always portray ourselves as superhuman-never-let-our-guard-down-pillars-of-strength while at the same time deep inside we are as fragile as a “bruised reed” or a “faintly burning wick” (Isaiah 42:3 ESV). Now for the quotes I mentioned above that will hopefully help you understand the title “A Walk in the Pit of Dark Territory”.
“Perhaps we all have a book in our hearts like Amy Carmichael had— a book that speaks the truth so bluntly, so truthfully, so courageously, that it unsettles those around us who want to avoid facing the dark places of life. What happens to our soul’s diaries, journals, and memoirs— our stories of unfulfilled longings and dashed desires? Are we not to speak of the realities of the spiritual life?” (Smith, Stephen W. (2012-12-10). The Lazarus Life: Spiritual Transformation for Ordinary People (pages 37 & 38). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
“A religion that does not embrace the tomb is only a feel-good religion, not an authentic relationship with God. If we fail to address the soul-stirring questions that the tombs of our lives ask, if we pretend that tombs do not exist, and we ignore the difficult parts of life and faith, then we will settle for something far less than authentic transformation.” (Smith, Stephen W. (2012-12-10). The Lazarus Life: Spiritual Transformation for Ordinary People (p. 40). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
At this point in my life I find myself in a multi-source pit, I say multi-source because not only I am a victim but I have put myself here as well. I have quoted Elijah’s pit story above to illustrate that pit stories do happen and are in fact a part of life. Before going further I’d like to invite you to join me in my pit. The way I am going to do that is by allowing you to read something from my personal journal. One of the unwritten rules of journal writing is journals are private-for-the-writers-eyes-only so at the risk of breaking the rules here’s an insider look into A Walk in the Pit of Dark Territory:
Father God… You know I have been struggling with depression for some time now. I would like to know if it would be okay for me to write about my experience with depression and put it on Natural Spirit Ministries for others to read. The reason I ask I do not want people to get the wrong idea of me. As a dedicated Christian I am supposed to be a “pillar” of faith get there are times (like now) when faith just seems like word with no meaning or substance. What am I supposed to put my faith in, something that may never happen? Am I supposed to put my faith in you even though life may never turn out the way I would like it? Am I supposed to throw all my hopes and dreams in a ditch in favor of a life lived in the pits? Am I supposed to trade a life lived on top of a lush mountain for a life in Death Valley?
Father God… In my heart I know the answer to all of those question, I know I am supposed to have faith in you, I know it is your plan for my life I should embrace not my own plans, I know it is your vision for my life I need to live out not hang on to hopes and dreams of my own. In my spirit I know the truth – but my other 5 senses tell me otherwise! I know the Holy SPIRIT is supposed to help me suppress and overcome my 5 senses because it is impossible for me, BUT LORD where is your SPIRIT? Why isn’t he helping me? Does he abandon me at the first sign of depression? After such a powerful display of Prophetic Power didn’t Elijah wind up in a pit? While in the Garden was Jesus not in the PIT? When Jesus was on the cross was he not in a PIT? When a storm arose on the lake and the disciples thought they were going to die were they not in a PIT? Did your SPIRIT not help Elijah of out of his PIT? Did your SPIRIT not enter the PIT and help Jesus? Did your SPIRIT not enter the PIT the disciples were in and save them? YES! And! YES! So why does YOUR SPIRIT not help me out of mine?
Father God… I know tomorrow I may “eat crow” for what I’ve written this morning but that is tomorrow and today is today I know the past, present, and future is all the same to you but I can only experience the present. If the past IS a prophecy of the future then it appears as YOUR SPIRIT will only accompany in PIT after PIT and I’ll never get out, NEVER! LORD… Writing and believing those words cuts deeply in my heart, never in my life have I ever written words that sting as those do but as much as they pain and hurt me they are honest true words that come from my heart. It is not my desire they find their way into your heart, my desire is they find their way to the foot of Jesus’ cross where they will die and then into his empty tomb where they will remain for the remainder of eternity.
There are three things I always do after a falling into a pit the first is wonder how it happened the second is to look around to see if anyone saw me, and the last thing is to try and get out. A number of years ago at work during the winter I was making my way across the driveway and slipped and fell. It was dark, I was in the middle of the driveway, trucks would be coming through and unable to see me lying in the road because of my artificial hips I could not help myself up. After looking around for help and finding no one I painfully crawled back the door I left the building from grabbed the door knob and pulled myself up hobbled back to my office and “licked” my wounded pride.
My winter experience of suddenly going horizontal in the driveway happens all too often in spite of the fact that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have throughout my life pulled me out of pit after pit after pit in the form of a Neuromuscular Disease, a heart attack, pulmonary fibrosis, all of which have resulted in 14 major surgeries and a few minor ones. As my mind drifts back over the years I can honestly say none of those “pits” were accompanied by a sense of depression I am experiencing right now. Since I have absolutely no talent in the fine art of drawing it’s impossible for me to illustrate what my life looks like right now. But as a writer perhaps I can draw you a word picture.
First of all picture a deep sinkhole of infinite width and length and deep enough so as to allow any light whatsoever. I remember years ago on a visit to the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky where our guide turned off all the lights. It was so dark I touched my nose with the palm of my hand and couldn’t see it. It was so dark I could feel the absence of light.
When the sudden stop at the bottom of the Pit of Dark Territory brought my fall to a painful halt my first inclination, since it was so dark was to stay put and try to determine where I was. However I couldn’t stay in one place so I started running and almost immediately tripped over something and started falling again. After running, falling, and hitting another low went on for several times I decided to, in spite of my anxiety stay put and begin looking for some help. That’s when I saw them. 2 eyes staring at me. There was no sound, nothing no bodies just 2 eyes affixed on mine. Almost immediately I knew the eyes belonged to Jesus. I waited for him to say something but he didn’t he didn’t even blink he just stared. I tried to speak and I could feel my lips moving but the darkness was so thick there was no sound.
Standing still and pondering what to do next with each heart beat I could feel myself slipping further into the Pit. Suddenly Jesus’ voice broke the silence and he began talking to someone else even though I couldn’t understand the language he was speaking I knew he was talking with God. Again I tried calling out but it came with the same results.
I am not sure if those 292 words adequately describe where I am at in my life the -truth is it’s one of those been-there-done-that-things really understand it.
Since I started writing this I have tried with limited success to remember when it began but it seems as if I’ve always been here because living in the dark has a unique way of disturbing our sense of time. You’ll notice my use of the word “depression” in previous paragraphs so before going any further I feel the need to clarify my understanding of how it has fit in and impacted my life. While I am no expert in clinical depression nor do I have a degree in human psychology my-unprofessional-gut-understanding of depression is a normal reaction of being distressed, discouraged, and disconnected from a person, place, or thing.
On the morning of April 19, 2009 I drove my car through the main gate of my nearly 42 year employer, Mueller Brass Company for the last time. I remember thinking now I could devote more time and energy to taking my writing career to the next level. At the same time Patti and I could really get serious about fulfilling our 10 year old dream of moving to Townsend, Tennessee. Despite the fact I now had more time to write it seems as I drove out the gate for the last time I was immediately met by writers block and eventually became distressed, discouraged, and disconnected from my passion to take my writing career to another level. In addition to writers block now over 6 years after retiring our hopes and dreams of Townsend, Tennessee is all but dead causing more distress, discouragement, and disconnectedness.
However, believe it or not it isn’t the distress, discouragement, and disconnectedness of writers block or broken hopes and dreams that has me walking in this Pit of Dark Territory was my perception that Jesus was ignoring me. One of my favorite verses is, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT) One might get the idea that anything happening to us we don’t consider good is not from God. Therefore a person walking through the Pit of Dark Territory would think God had nothing to do with it. Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t really say that.
For example in 1981 I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis there were many prayer seeking a healing for me yet I was growing spiritually by leaps and bounds as a result. When (the coat of many colors, brothers sold into slavery, spent time is prison) Joseph got reacquainted with his brothers he told them, “So it was God who sent me here, not you! And He is the One who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.” (Genesis 45:8 NLT, emphasis mine). God did not send me into the land of Egypt he sent me into the “land of Myasthenia Gravis” instead.
One of the lessons I am learning is it not our plan or God’s plan that is important, plans are simply the way to achieve an end. Once Joseph arrived at the point God wanted him to arrive it his Pit of Dark Territory came to an end. Once I arrived at the spiritual level God wanted me at the Pit of Dark Territory (Myasthenia Gravis) went in remission. And once I arrive at the point God wants me my 6 year walk in the Pit of Dark Territory will come to an abrupt end.
I am also discovering that asking “God why” only leads to speculation and frustration which opens the door to distress, discouragement, and disconnectedness pushing deeper and deeper in the Pit of Dark Territory. Even though the bible doesn’t say so it must have been a walk through the Pit of Dark Territory for the unmarried-pregnant-with-Jesus-Mary. Instead of asking why Mary asked how and after receiving an answer, “Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said…” (Luke 1:38, CEV)
This morning as I bring this to a close I find myself borrowing Mary’s response to her Pit of Dark Territory and saying, “LORD God, I am your servant! Let it happen to me as you have planned.” I will try to be as patient as I can waiting for the moment when I no longer walk in the Pit of Dark Territory instead walk in the Light of the opening verses of Psalms 40. “I patiently waited, LORD, for you to hear my prayer. You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm, and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you. Many will see this, and they will honor and trust you, the LORD God.” (Psalms 40:1-3 CEV)
Never forget – What God does to me, with me, and for me he does likewise to, with, and for you as well, the walk may be rough but when the Light comes on, now that’s worth walking to!
Grace and PEACE,