On a Sunday morning in our country church, we all sat facing the wooden cross nailed to the wall. Wicks flickered. A mama shushed her boys. An old farmer creased his bulletin in half.
All of us leaned in for the story the pastor was about to tell.
“A man was walking down a street when he fell into a hole,” our pastor began. “The walls were so steep he couldn’t get out. So the man in the hole began to cry out for help.”
Soon, a doctor walked by, and he heard the man’s cries for help. The doctor wrote a prescription, tossed it down the hole, and walked away.
Before long, a priest walked by and heard the man calling out. “Father, can you help me?” the man asked. The priest wrote a prayer, threw it in the hole, and walked away.
Finally, a friend came along. And the man asked the friend for help.
The friend then made a brave, bold move: He jumped into the hole.
The man who had been trapped was aghast. “Are you stupid? Now we’re both stuck down here!”
But the friend said, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”
This story — a modern-day parable — was first told 15 years ago on the TV drama The West Wing.
But today, this story is for all of us. The parable is for every person in my church and every person whose eyes are crossing this screen today. The story is for every pastor, every mama, every wife struggling through a divorce, and every grandma battling depression. It’s for every breast cancer survivor, and every woman who just received the diagnosis. It’s for every recovering alcoholic, and for anyone still looking for hope at the bottom of a bottle.
Right now, all of us are in one of two places: We are either stuck in a hole. Or we’re walking along the street, seeing holes all around and hearing only voices.
As I sat in my wooden pew on Sunday morning, tears filled my eyes. I thought about the people I know who are stuck in holes. And I thought about the people who helped me out of mine.
I was stuck in a hole for 15 years. My hole was the shape of doubt. I didn’t believe the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I was afraid that the whole Bible was a sham. But I was too ashamed to cry out for help. The walls were too steep for me to climb out on my own. And if there was a God, well, He didn’t seem to care. I was so terribly angry at an invisible diety who was supposedly all-knowing, yet didn’t bother dropping me a rope.
I thought I might die there, in the dark.
God never sent a rope. But He sent a friend. He sent someone who knew the terrain of the hole I was in. And that friendship built a ladder so I could climb out.
When I finally stood on the rim of the hole, I could see with startling clarity that God had done more than send a friend during that season. He’d done the unthinkable: Long ago, He sent Himself.
This is the gospel. God stood at the edge of a hole, and He heard people crying for help. But God didn’t write us a prescription and throw it down the hole. He didn’t pray then walk away. He made the boldest, bravest move in human history: He jumped into the hole. Jesus forfeited heaven, put skin on, and lived on the inside of every hole, every mess, every valley you could imagine.
Scriptures tell us that Jesus “experienced it all himself — all the pain, all the testing — and would be able to help where help was needed” (Hebrews 2:18, The Message).
Jesus gets you. He knows the steepness of all the walls in all the holes. He is uniquely equipped to hear your cry, to jump into the most treacherous holes, and to help you find the way out. Jesus is the ladder.
One of the ways Jesus helps us out of those holes is through His modern-day disciples — ordinary people like you and me. If we are on the street, then we are called to do more than offer a few clichéd prescriptions. Because this is who we are: We are the Hole Hunters. We are the Cry Hearers. We are the Noticers and the Jumper-In-ers.
If you’ve ever been in a hole, and are standing on the street, it means you know the way out.
I don’t know where you’re at today. I don’t know if you’re inside the hole, ashamed to cry out like I was. Or maybe your voice is hoarse from crying out so long. And all you’ve got is a pile of prescriptions and prayers at your feet. Friend, Jesus is right there with you, building you a ladder.
Or maybe you’ve been rescued, and you’re living in freedom, up on the street. But you recognize the holes, because you dwelled in them. Friend, Jesus is calling you to do the brave, bold, ridiculous thing:
We don’t have to jump into every hole. That would be foolish, because we don’t know the way out of every hole. But you’ll know which ones are familiar, and which ones aren’t. Pick the ones you know.
Someone is waiting for you.
Where are you? Are you stuck in a hole? Or did you find a way out? Tell us your story.