Have you ever been in a cave or a deep pit? I can’t stand the thought of it! On our cross country road trip this summer, I refused to visit cave locations. I loved the mountain tops, the canyons, even the valleys, but caves? Underground? Dark? Damp? Probably bugs and bats and who know what else? No thanks! Just watching the story of the trapped Chilean miners unfold on television pained me. Whenever the reporter opened her mouth, I could feel the air being sucked out of my lungs. “It’s been 2 days.” Two days! I would think. Then it was 4 days, 24 days, 40 days. When would it end?
For a girl who avoids dark, confining spaces, I sure spend a lot of time in the pits – emotional pits, psychological pits, spiritual pits. Have you ever been in a pit like that? Where you just couldn’t seem to feel good about anything? Maybe you were hurt – so hurt you couldn’t imagine ever being happy again. Perhaps bitterness was eating away at your heart. Or was your soul shackled to a need for revenge? Maybe you were wandering in a fog of doubt, lost sight of who you were and couldn’t remember the point of this life anyway.
A few months ago, when I was in a really ugly place, at the urging of a good friend, I spent several hours praying about my “pit”. Now I could make this a really long letter and tell you all about the deep, psychological revelations, spiritual implications, and sometimes bizarre conversations I had with the Lord and myself that night, but neither you nor I are ready for that. Instead I will share what I think is the single, most pivotal moment in my prayer time that night. As I prayed, I asked the Lord, “But how can I ever get out of this pit? You say I have to want to get out but I don’t know if I want to get out. Can you make me want it? And even if I want to get out, then what? I’m trapped. What do I do?” A moment later, almost clear as day, (though not audibly like a person), I heard the Lord gently say, “Invite me into the pit with you.” Even as I write this, tears well up in my eyes. “Invite me into the pit with you,” he says.
Who is this God who offers to come into our pit with us? The great I AM, the Lord Almighty, the King of kings, says to me, a selfish, petulant child, “Invite me into the pit with you.” That was exactly what I needed to hear that night. The pit is too deep, the walls too steep, the earth too hard, the way too dark. I can never get out on my own. Yet, I do not have to be in this alone.
During my prayer, I looked up at the television (which had been muted) and what was on? Nothing other than the Chilean miners being rescued, one by one, from a pit 2014 feet below ground. After 69 days – 69 days! -of waiting, hoping and praying, they were finally being saved. For weeks they had been fed, medicated as necessary and monitored for emotional and psychological well-being. For over two months, teams of people around the world worked to create a mechanism by which the men could be freed from the mines. Now, finally, the whole world watched as, one at a time, the miners rode the small capsule to freedom. I, like you, was elated and overcome with joy for these men and their families.
The next day, I watched as the last miner was pulled out of the earth. I turned up the volume and heard the reporter say that there was still someone to be freed. What? I thought the last miner was just rescued! I turned up the volume some more. Turns out, the miners hadn’t climbed into the capsule on their own like I had thought. Silly me. Rescuers, themselves, entered the capsule first and willingly rode it deep down into the earth to help save the trapped men. The last man out of the mines was a rescuer. He sacrificed the sunlight and security above to go down into the pit with them; and he didn’t leave until every last man was saved.
It was no accident that God timed my prayers to coincide with this historic rescue. What a beautiful expression of his love. “Look, Nichole. This is a picture of me,” he said, “I have come down to you and I am not leaving you behind.”
Now this is a Christmas letter, after all, and so I will go ahead and write what many of you are already thinking: Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? The Lord of lords, the King of kings, the Almighty God, the great I AM, stepped out of heaven and into a manger. He left his place on high and came down into the pit with us. The Alpha and Omega left behind the goodness, light, glory and perfection of heaven for this fallen world, in order to become our Prince of Peace. The Creator of all things took the form of his creation and lived not only in the pit of humanity but as the pit that is humanity. And he didn’t leave until he completed his mission: that by his sacrifice every last person could be saved. The Lion became the Lamb. That is the gift of Christmas: Jesus.
If and when you find yourself in a “pit” of your own, whether it is today or tomorrow or next week or next year, I encourage you to invite Jesus down into that dark place with you. And remember, you don’t have to wait until things are really bad. He’s always there, waiting to be invited in.
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth, you will again bring me up. Psalm 71:20