Apparently, when Jesus was on earth and trying to help folks understand the Old Testament Law and the New Covenant, there were a lot of farm animals that landed in the ditch on the Sabbath. Lots of directionally challenged mammals, in those days I guess.
If the animal had the misfortune to fall into the ditch on the Sabbath, the poor thing had to just hang out in the ditch until the day was over. To lift the animal out would constitute work, and there was to be none of that on the Sabbath… according to the Law. There was no grace for the poor thing… just rules that left them out of luck. Jesus knew that, Sabbath or no Sabbath, it was no good to stay in the ditch, and he told them so. He knew the longer it stayed in the ditch, the worse things would get for the animal.
I spent a good bit of time this week with someone who has chosen to live their life in the ditch. They’ve been in the ditch long enough now that they have stopped trying to get out, and they abuse anyone else that tries to help left them. In spite of multiple helping hands, I believe this person actually prefers to live their lives in the ditch. I know that sounds crazy to most of us, but it’s true. Some folks have grown so accustomed to ditch living, they just decide to stay put.
It’s not that I sit up on high from my lofty position, and peer down my nose at the one in the ditch. I have run my life off into a ditch a time or two. What I cannot understand is the willingness to stay there… I wanted out of that ditch as soon as possible and by any means! We may not always like the hand reaching to pull us out, or the method they choose to employ to lift us… but when you are in the ditch, you can’t be so choosy about the help that comes or the manner in which the help is offered. After all, you’re the one in the ditch.
Life in the ditch should be a humbling position, not one that lends itself to an attitude of entitlement and a never-ending pity party because you have decided to stay where you are. Expecting others to fund (either emotionally or financially) your ditch dweller’s life is just unfair. It’s called enabling and every psychologist worth their salt will tell you that enablers are often the largest hindrance for getting someone to come out of their ditch.
This week, I saw what staying too long in the ditch can do to a person’s perspective on life. They can no longer see what the rest of us can clearly see. They have lost the ability to have vision. What can be plainly seen from the roadside, is lost on them down there, and if you give them long enough, they can begin to convince you that what they see makes more sense than what you see.
Jesus knew that the grace under the New Covenant was sufficient for everyone. But He also knew that people had to be willing to make the hard choices to follow Him in all things. In Matthew 19, the rich young ruler asked Jesus how he might get out of his own ditch. The young man knew he needed what Jesus had to offer, but sadly, he was unwilling to do what it took to truly follow Christ and leave the ditch behind forever. He turned from Christ and climbed right back into his ditch.
It’s hard when the person in the ditch is someone you care about. Most of us will go above and beyond to help those we love who find themselves in dire straights, and yet there comes a point when the person in that ditch has to decide they want out; that they are willing to submit themselves to someone who can still see what they can no longer see from their poor vantage point. Sometimes love is doing the hard, right thing. Enabling isn’t love, it never has been and it never will be.