John Bunyan wrote a story - which is an allegory of spiritual journey - called Pilgrim's Progress. Next to the Bible it is one of the most widely read pieces of literature of all time. On his journey toward God's Town (heaven) Pilgrim (or Christian) encounters many adventures. One of his early adventures involves what I call "The Pond of Green Slime." Bunyan calls it the Slough of Despond.
Christian has a very heavy backpack (burden) which hampers his forward movement. This is especially so when he stumbles into the Pond of Green Slime. He flounders and almost perishes between the slime. Finally he manages to get to the other side where an individual named Help lends him a hand of rescue. One of the things Help asks Christian is, "Why didn't you go around by the steps and avoid the Pond of Green Slime?" Christian scratches his head and wonders where these steps are. The steps are stepping stones around the slime. Christian never saw them because he was so focused on the Pond of Green Slime.
The picture Bunyan is painting and the point he is making is that all of us struggle in our life journey with depression and despair. We all fall into our own personal "ponds of green slime." Some are almost overcome. Some sink below the slime and never surface to the light of day again. Some - like Christian - struggle through. All of us could have taken the stepping stones around the slime but chose the slime instead!
I once used the Pond of Green Slime in an interactive exercise with children in our church. The Pond was a children's swimming pool filled with cooked oatmeal dyed green with vegetable oil to ensure slime! Here too there were stepping stones around the pond. Not one single chilld chose the stepping stones. All chose to go thru the slime. One adorable little girl in a black velvet dress and black tights absolutely refused to be deterred. She waded right in despite my warning to take the stones! She and her dress survived. Her tights got pretty well slimed!
The metaphor is our struggle with depression and despair. Things happen! Life happens! Green slime comes!
King David wrote in Psalm 40:1: "... the Lord ... lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."
Slimy pits exist. So do "ponds of green slime." We flounder in them unless we find the help and hope King David found. David called God his "very present help in trouble." (Ps. 46:1)
Healthy faith sees the slime. Healthy faith reaches out for help and hope! Healthy faith helps us embrace our need for help in the midst of the pond (life's slimy circumstances)!
Like the little girl in the black velvet dress we just can't resist our "pity parties" so we jump into the slime quite happily until it threatens to suck us under. The we panic and flounder. Whether we make it through depends on where our heart focus is. If our eyes are fixed on Jesus our help and hope - If we let Him pull us out of the slime - THEN we can continue the journey!
Otherwise we stay stuck floundering in the slime! That's just the way it is!
Remember Peter, one of Jesus' main men? He floundered in his own pond of green slime many times. One night the "green slime" was the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was walking on the water. Peter wanted to jump in and walk too. So, over the side of the boat and into the stormy seas he went. Big problem! He forgot to keep his focus on Jesus. He concentrated on the waves and he began to sink. Jesus reached out and pulled Peter back up to his feet again!
Often the green slime is just too much and the only way out is to find the help only God can give us. He stands ready and waiting. All we have to do is reach out our hand!