Apr 30

“I stay near the pit” a poem written for the dedication of Van Orsdel Commons and chapel

I stay near the pit

(inspired by Rev. Samuel Shoemaker’s poem, “I Stand by the Door,” and Psalm 40)

© Chris Haughee, 2018. All rights reserved.


I stay near the pit.

My cry was heard and I was lifted from it.

And while my feet are steady on the Rock and the path is laid straight before me

I was not alone in that pit.

There were many others with me, stuck in that mire.

So, I stay near the pit.


I had tried for a long time—such a long, long time—

to make my way out,

to find myself planted firm on that rock.

That Rock in whom I now put my trust.

Yes, I tried to find my way out on my own…


But steep are the slopes and slick the sides that surround the pit

Dark with self-centeredness, with self-hatred, with fear and shame.

I had almost given up my trying, given up my crying, when someone heard.

Yes, my cry was heard.


And it turned out the ears of the Lord took the shape of a friend

And the hands that lifted me out came not from heaven, but from those Heaven sent.

They lifted me out, pulled me clear and helped me clean up.

It turns out that they, too, had just been freed from the pit

and felt compelled to help… me.

They pointed the way to the horizon, a path laid out upon the Rock.

They beckoned me, “Come!” as they started on their way.

But something made me pause. So,

I stay near the pit.


It is a miraculous thing, this difference between the Rock and the pit

And it is a glory to be saved from destruction and shame.

To stand in the light and know you are loved…

Loved by the One who calls from the horizon.


I understand the motivation of those who started down the path

Leaving the pit far behind them.

Drawn forward by Love, urged on to know who they are

Know whose they are.


I, too, am compelled by Love.

Not to start down that path, but to linger still.

For love of those still in the pit.

So I stay near the pit.

Run freely the paths of God’s great law, fellow saints!

Revel in the joy of being free, being alive.

With ecstasy, I too have skipped down that road.

The sun on my back.

A new song in my mouth.


But as the volume of that praise arose

The sounds from the pit and the cries of those

Still stuck, still hurting, still without hope…

Grew fainter, and fainter still… nearly silent

Drowned out by the chorus of pilgrims and their singing

So I withdrew

I returned

And I stayed near the pit.


I remember that first time

That first cry that I heard

Calling not for me, but for someone… anyone.

Fearfully I went near the pit

dark with the memories of my past, my guilt, my pain

But a companion to that fear was a Love that compelled me

A love I recognized in the faces of those that pulled me free.

So I came nearer the edge and I looked into the darkness

For the one who was calling—screaming, really…

And I was not prepared for what came next

It became my reason,

The reason I stay near the pit.


As the cry grew louder

my front foot slipped on the sludge near the edge

So I got on my knees and leaned forward to reach

What was it? Could I make it out in the dark?

Yes… a hand! But not any hand…

The hand of a child.

I reached out and grabbed hold…

For this reason I had remained near the pit.


This frightened child at first feared my grasp and

Scratched, bit, and clawed to free herself

All the time crying and wailing, covered in filth

She did not—could not—know that Heaven had sent me

Just as One had once been sent for me!

So I held on through the pain and pulled her free.

Free from the pit, she wept. We wept. And,

Exhausted, together, we stayed near the pit.


In the midst of that struggle, another miracle took place.

Gathered round us, drawn in by the girl’s cries,

Was huddled a group of others.

They, too, had been pulled from the pit… yet stayed near.

Drawn as I was, it turned out, to help—

If not many, at least one.

And send these little least ones on their way…

Down the path toward healing, toward wholeness.

So we sent this young girl off to the horizon.

But we—these new friends and I—

We stayed near the pit.


And here we are together—you and I—

And our tribe has grown as have the years.

Some we have lost. Not every tale a triumph.

More than a few have gone on, past the horizon.

But new friends have come…

They, too, having heard the cries.

We stay near the pit.


And it is here that we do this messy,


difficult work together.

We stay near the pit.

Yes, “He drew me up from the pit… set my feet upon a rock,”

So, in honor and praise…

I stay near the pit.