Recently, I was visiting with a man at one of our churches after a time of worship and we started talking about stump holes. He told me that when he was a youngster his daddy instructed him numerous times, when he would go fishing or they would be at a lake or a pond and he would get out in the water, to be careful about the stump holes that were out there. The man asked me if I knew what a stump hole was and, indeed I did. Then he told me that his father was so concerned because they were so dangerous. A stump hole out in a pond, a lake, and even in some creeks is where a tree used to be and maybe was cut down or blown down, and the stump that was left there over time in the water would disintegrate, corrode, rot, and eventually be gone leaving a hole there in the bottom of the pond. If you happen to be walking along in knee deep or waist deep water and stepped into a stump hole, it is a shocking experience. In fact, you can step off in a stump hole and it is so sudden and shocking that you have a hard time recouping to pull yourself together and try to get out of the stump hole.
Add to that the problem when you step in a hole like that it often times has suction about it and it is hard to get your foot and leg back out of the hole. That is why the man had encouraged his son to be careful, because people have drowned from stepping in a stump hole. If you step into it you will be so surprised and overwhelmed that you cannot get your breath and you have trouble getting your wits together in order to do anything.
I have thought about how much like sin are the stump holes of life. That word, “sin,” covers our wrong decisions, wrong actions, wrong directions, and disobedience to the will of God. Often times, sin is defined as missing the mark, going the wrong way, or in this case taking a wrong step.
The truth is that every one of us lives in a world where there are stump holes that can pull you down, suck you under, hold you for too long, and indeed the truth is there and the wages of sin is death. Now, every one of us live around those people, experiences, and activities that could be stump holes that jerk you down and hurt your life. I think about in church there are stump holes. While there may be many issues that come before people in the church, there are issues that are filled with concern, outrage, emotion, and sometimes even panic.
The stump hole effect is not just related to one of the issues so much as it is that one person, or a group of people, or sometimes it seems like the whole church body is sucked down into a hole and the suction will not let them get free to actually deal with the problem. I have seen it too many times and often times I wonder if they can get loose. Can they be set free? Can they survive? I have seen the stump hole effect in church over things like the cemetery fund or the cemetery maintenance. Sometimes it has to do with scheduling, or groups being invited to sing at the church, or people selling their CDs.
I have known churches to get all out of control and every one almost paralyzed as they try to deal with something that needed to be dealt with, as practical as putting a new roof on the church or cutting some trees in front of the church. Now, I know that these are real issues, but we do not need to lose our perspective on who we are, why we exist, and how we should treat one another.
At times, I have seen the stump hole effect hit in peoples’ homes and especially in the area of finances. At times, they begin to spend or overspend and then they spend and overspend a little bit more and hardly recognize the mounting debt that they have gotten into until suddenly and shockingly they are about to drown. The reality is that the vast majority of Americans live that way. They think that it just happened. Well, it just happened because they kept on spending and did not recognize that they were stepping off into a deep hole with a powerful suction. An examination of their spending habits reveals that they could have avoided that step many times and even if they did not avoid it, they can get out if they will make a commitment to do so.
I think about youthful stump holes where young people are so easily grabbed and pulled down. It is hard to imagine how close that they stay one step from addiction, a drink, or a drive that would lead to destruction and even loss — but it is not just young people. Senior adults take steps that lead to their own stump hole experience. Life does provide some experience and wisdom, but sometimes the senior adults do not see the sinkhole any better than the rest of us and the sinkhole for them may be procrastination. It can happen anywhere in life, but for senior adults it becomes more vivid for they are often staring at a lot more life in the rearview mirror than they see through the windshield. Suddenly they realize that what they should have done or should have said, they did not. I would encourage them to say what you need to say and do what you need to do right now, before you have no opportunity to do it.
Sin with its wrong decision process, warped thinking, and harmful approach can grab hold of any of us over anything at any time, so as you travel through today’s pond of life be careful for there are stump holes out there and I do not want you or me to step off into one of them. If you do, reach up to Jesus. He cares, He can help, and He will be there.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.