As a young girl, I grew up on a horse farm. I did not usually help much in the barn, because my dad had fired me once for standing on hay bales, pretending I was on a good episode of Hee Haw. I’d been giving the animals a soulful Crystal Gayle, “Don’t It Turn My Brown Eyes Blue” concert. Unlike my brothers who were more invested in the horses and helping my dad, I found my place was usually helping my mom in the house, feeding the barn cats, and taking care of puppies. My mom didn’t care if I gave free concerts as long as I was working. However, one night, probably because my older brother had homework or an activity outside the home, I was drafted to help my dad lead in the horses. Every evening my Dad would lead our mares in and feed them. If the weather was bad or they were close to expecting foals, they would stay in for the night. It was not a task that I was unfamiliar with or incapable of completing. My dad always picked the most gentle mares that would basically just follow my footsteps into the barn. I remember this particular night very well, and recently the memories of it came clearly back to me while studying scripture. Just right outside the backdoors of our barn was a long sloping hill that went down into the pasture where the horses were usually kept. That evening it was raining, and raining hard. Our little humble farm had deep, hard clay which my parents battled for years while gardening and farming. “Clay” is honestly not a nice word in my mind when I hear it, because I am reminded of the texture. When it rained the ground would become almost like a mud suction vacuum that would quickly make barn boots very heavy, and required heaving the clay laden boots up the hill with each step. As a young girl, I had to keep up with the very gentle mare, though I am more than sure she was already slowing her normal pace. But still, I had to make every step that she did, and follow the number one rule, “never drop the shank”. A shank on the farm is a strap or a braided rope with a snap that is used to lead animals, and it attaches to their halters which guides their heads, and usually means they will follow you. Dropping the shank in the muddy clay was a mess, and it also meant you could lose control of your horse. Even an old gentle horse could become unreasonable and wild if the routine task of going in at night spooked her in some way. I don’t know if you have ever walked closely with a horse, but it is a powerful experience. You can feel the large muscles of the horse move with every rise and fall of their steps. It is always a reminder to me of how small I really am. So on this particular night, I was walking up the slippery, muddy hill in the rain beside this big, powerful but gentle mare with my black rubber boots on. Unfortunately, they now seemed to weigh fifty pounds each from the accumulated mire, and so proved to be too much for me. I stuck my booted foot in the miry clay and attempted to pull it out as I had done most of the way up the hill, but it would not come up. The sweet mare I was leading was unaware of my struggle, and she was moving on. I knew I had to go with her. I could see my Dad had already made it to the barn door with the lead horse, but his back was turned, trusting his gentle mare would just follow in. I had seconds to make a choice. I could drop the shank, stumble trying to pull the boot out, or simply pull my foot out of the boot and keep going. I chose the last option, or maybe my gentle mare did, I’m not really sure. But my clean white sock foot came out and my boot stayed in the muddy clay. I made it to the barn safely with the mare and the shank. As I entered the barn my Dad met me, and he was surprised to see I only had one boot on. He said, “what in the world happened, where is your boot ?” He couldn’t believe I had just abandoned my good barn boot in the mud. He was saying, “You really couldn’t pull your boot out ?!” He took the mare and secured her in the stall, and then marched back out in the rainy, muddy clay to retrieve my boot. I stood at the top of the hill between the barn doors and watched him stomp and slide down the hill. He quickly found my little boot. My dad was not just strong, he was farm strong. The kind of strength you get from slinging hay bales, milking cows, running tillers, and throwing feed sacks over your shoulder. I remember him leaning down and trying to pull my half submerged boot out of the clay. It wouldn’t budge, the mire had a firm grip on my boot. Knowing it was going to take a little more power he bent down and gave another tug, still no boot. I remember thinking, “Well, I may have to get new boots”. And with a big farm strong grunt he bent down a third time, determined to pull the boot out, and with all his might he pulled. Up like a freed can of biscuits came my boot, and because of the sheer force which he was using and the new-found flying freedom of my boot, my dad went down. Going down in the muddy clay was no fun, but because of the circumstances, this time my dad found it funny. I can remember his laugh as he struggled getting up and walking up the hill covered in dark red Kentucky clay. He entered the barn and with a twinkle in his eye he chuckled and said, “I got it!!”
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
If you have never been stuck in miry clay, maybe this verse does not speak to you as deeply as it does me. However, I know you can relate to the feeling of being stuck in a pit. We have all been in a pit of destruction. Life is full of pits, whether it is a pit that we have created ourselves by our own destructive behavior or a pit that we are put in because of someone else’s sin. A pit is a hopeless place. On our own we have no way to escape a pit, we have to be pulled out of it. The miry clay is very much like this. I had no hope of pulling my boot out, the miry clay had all the power and would not let me go. I could not create a rock to anchor myself on, I could not stop the horse, and I could not get my boot out. It was the power of my father that pulled my boot out. It was my dad who cleaned my boot off and put it back on my foot, securing my steps. Often we find ourselves caught by this world, in the rain on the miry clay hill trying to provide our own traction. But God is the only rock; the only solid ground. He is the only one capable of setting us on solid ground. Without God we are stuck in the pit, and mired in the clay without hope. The Lord is my rock, the only firm foundation. It puts me in mind of one of my old favorite hymns, I can almost hear my Mom singing it now, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, All other Ground is Sinking Sand.” When I focus on my circumstances around me, the stress of my daily life I can feel myself sinking into the miry clay, stuck. My heavenly Father is there for me, he is pulling me up and placing me on his rock where my feet are secure and my steps are safe. Thank you God for pulling me out of the clay and placing me on your Rock which is a higher ground.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
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