The man who stooped

Splattered in mud. Stench unbearable. Flies hovering like vultures preparing to land. Feet sinking more and more into the layer of brown earth. Smell identified as feces soaked deeply into clothing. Head lowered in shame, eyes burning with tears that wash over the face.  Feet sinking, sinking deeper below. Knees locked, then released as the body gives itself up to the pit. In slow motion, it falls backward.

Suddenly, a hand. Reached out and large with obvious strength. It grabs the arm of the body and jerks it to its feet just as the body’s back hits the bottom of the pit.

The body is thrusted forward into an embrace of a man, stooped. Large arms thrown around the body, squeezing it tightly. The lowered man’s large hands wipe across the back of the body, brushing off the dirt and feces, bleaching the stains away with contact. The man pulls away from the embrace with his captive long  enough to examine the rest of the body, small in stature and comparison. Smiling, he inhales deeply through his nostrils. With focused lips, he blows on the face of the body. Air from his lungs rushes over the body like the winds from a storm. Mud is lifted in clumps off the body. Remnants deeper in the clothing fibers are blown away completely. Even the feet of the body are made clean from the force of His breath.

It was then that the feet told the body it was no longer sinking. Lifted high, above the pit, yet securely standing in the arms of the stooped man. “How could this be?” the body thought to itself. “I was sinking? I was done?”

Still holding onto the arms of the body, the man who stooped leans forward and kisses the face of the body once reeking of filth. Now, he is the one with tears in his eyes. Moved, the man pulls the body into himself once again, squeezing tighter this time.

The body, once in despair and then perplexed, became indignant. “I was sinking! I was done!” it roared, wiggling in the arms of the man who stooped, hoping to break free.

Upon hearing the body, the man let go. Standing up from his stooped position, the man stood much taller than his prize. The hand that had saved the body was now hanging from the man’s arm at eye level with the body. A dark scar stretched across the face of the palm. It stunk of the mud that had once covered the body.

The man opened his hand towards the body for the body to grab hold of. Disgusted by the smell of what had once engulfed his senses, the body refused it. After all, it was now clean! Why hold onto the hand that had wiped away the filth?

And so, the body turned. Away from the man who stooped to rescue it. Away from the reminder of its former pit. The body marched away in the opposite direction. With each step, the body recognized its own conflicting thoughts. Once, the body was surrendered to its pit, the muddy chains pulling it down justified by the body’s guilt and shame. And the body was delighted to have reason to loathe itself. Yet, the body no longer had its pit to fall into; no longer was there fecal matter matted into its skin and hair. No flies to keep it company, no more reason to hate itself.

Why didn’t the body just grab hold of the hand that had wiped all that away? Because the hand was a reminder of the pit! The body’s pit! Now made clean, the body was willing to walk away from the pit on its own. To hold onto the hand that had once saved it would mean being reminded of the pit, of the fact that once the body needed saving. The body was now too proud to reclaim its pit, where it once relished in self-pity.

It was then that the feet told the body it was sinking. Looking down, the body saw the pit that had once imprisoned it. The familiar stench greeted the body’s nose as mud and feces  crept between the body’s toes once again. Warm and rotten, the bottom of the pit began to reclaim its former prisoner.

But something was different. The pit was working its way up the legs of the body much more quickly than it had before. Sinking deeper and faster, the body realized that it no longer had a choice to surrender to the pit; the pit was taking more of the body than the body had say to give. Self-hatred and fury, despair and hopelessness, a whirlwind of emotions swept over the body all at once, clouding its thoughts and darkening where there was once light to see.

Quickly, the body turned its head from side to side, scanning for the man who stooped before to save it. But it was too late. The darkness had hid him from view.

By this time the earth had pulled the body down until only its knees were visible above the surface of the pit. The organic mixture had become hot and steaming, bubbling up, alive. The body could feel the pit swallowing it, working away at its skin with the pit’s hot juices.

At this moment the body realized how much it no longer wanted to be in the pit. Even the worst of the body’s crimes could not justify the realities of the pit. The body longed for the brief moments when it was free and clean, saved and in the arms of the man who stooped.

With pride abandoned, the body opened its mouth with lifted arms in desperation. As air entered its lungs to release a cry for help, along with any remaining faith that there was hope for salvation, a massive hand suddenly clenched hold of the body’s outreached arms, light bursting forth with it.

Yanked up and forward, the body was set free from the depths of the pit and forced again into the embrace of the man who stooped. In familiar position, the man was again lowered to grab hold of the body he had saved twice.

The man proceeded to wipe down the legs of the body where the mud had seeped upwards. His hands were still scarred and dark; however, the body noticed they did not stink like they had after the body was rescued the first time. The body wondered how this could be.

After finishing his work, the man rose from his stooped position and stood before the body he had rescued. His height cast a shadow that swept across the body. Overwhelmed, the body fell to its knees, letting the man’s shadow hide the body from its savior.

And still, a third time, the man who stooped stooped once more, this time to extend an open hand in front of the body, which was now trembling. The body looked up to see the hand that had saved it, scarred and dirty with the filth that was not from his own doing but rather once covered the body. The body recognized the smell of the pit on the hand, and began to cry at the thought of its former prison.

And then a miraculous thing happened. The dark scar on the hand of the man who stooped began to absorb the mud stretched across its palm right before the body’s eyes. Soon, the stench was gone, and so was the last remains of the pit’s hold on the body.

“I was sinking…I was done…” the body whispered. And the body met the eyes of the man who stooped for it, eyes filled with life and light. The man smiled at the body, his beloved.

“No longer will you sink. You are certainly not done, for I have stooped just for you. You are mine, not the pit’s. And should you sink once more, my grace is sufficient. My heart is forever yearning for your embrace, forever listening for your cries, forever fighting for your freedom.”

And with that, the body took hold of the hand that had wiped itself clean. Empowered by the love from the man, the body stood up from its knelt position and proceeded to walk, hand-in-hand, led by the man who stooped just for it.


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