Seven of us stood in a loose circle around the dark hole. My friends were finally hooked up to city sewage and now had to deal with the septic tank under their back yard. The guys had dug down a couple of feet to the clay tank then broken through to reveal the wet, dark, cavernous tank. It was not a pleasant sight or smell but we were going to fill that puppy up and they’d be good to go. There was a mound of dirt near the hole but we quickly realized that it could not fill the massive space inside. Then a brilliant idea! Someone suggested that we toss in a bunch of junk from their garage — like old bicycles, a broken camping cooler…even a few old broken chairs. The idea was to fill up the space with junk and finish it off with dirt before replacing the topsoil. Is that a great idea or what!
It wasn’t that easy. At one point, Paul accidently dropped the javelin-like pole that was being used to break apart the clay tank. This resulted in a ladder, a descent into the pit and a retrieval. Difficult, smelly business for sure. What seemed like a whole lot of big stuff turned out to fill less than anticipated. So the rest of us went to get our castoffs. For a few hours we gathered and tossed junk into the dark hole. We added dirt. It was supposed to begin to fill up. We added more dirt. Still no sign of having raised the depths. Finally it was agreed that they just needed to order in lots of dirt. Lots of it. Ultimately, the hole was filled, the ground restored and grass seeded. It took so much more than our initial solution anticipated.
I think this septic adventure is a cautionary tale about how we fill the gaps, holes and empty places of our life. Whether from childhood wounds, destructive patterns as adults, dissolved marriages and families, or a multitude of other ways, life can hollow us out, destabilize our foundation and turn septic. As we grow into adulthood we may not be fully aware of the hollow dark places until we find ourselves trying to fill up our need for love, acceptance and security with all the wrong things – like food, sex, alcohol, drugs, anger and hiding (to name a few). Most of us understand the inclination to pacify, anaesthetize, numb or hide the emptiness inside. The problem is that none of those things work beyond the immediate gratification. We may feel better for a minute but that doesn’t mean it will hold. And too often the unhappiness, dissatisfaction and pain grow exponentially with every attempt to cover it. What’s a body to do?
I have a suggestion…based on my experience and that of others over the years. Find out what the hole is and you’ll know better how to fill it. Childhood trauma from poverty, abuse and divorce resulted in adulthood with great insecurities and a deep, deep need to be loved and accepted. I tried to fill that hole with food and with “good girl syndrome.” That syndrome creates a way of living where you do everything you can to keep everyone around you happy and liking you. I never learned to know or verbalize my own needs…there wasn’t room for that if I was so desperate to be accepted. The result of these unhealthy patterns was that my body grew in girth while my soul withered. That is not the way to a good life.
Only by God’s kindness and grace did I come to understand and trust that I was worth caring for and that my needs were as important as yours. All of the things I’d used over the years to fill that empty tank were useless, but as I surrendered to God’s loving kindness He began to fill in the dark, lonely, scarred places with light and love. It really did change everything for me. I am not all I want to be…yet…but I have come to like and appreciate my “unique” self. (Some would use the word strange…I prefer unique.)
My invitation to you, dear reader, is to go after the septic areas of your life and begin to find real life. Whether you begin with prayer, talking with friends who know you, therapy or reading helpful books, start somewhere. My personal belief is that the best and only truly successful path is to move toward the One who created you, knows you and loves you more than you can imagine. He wants all goodness for you and He is enough soil to fill every single cavernous hole. It’s true. I know it.
Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
Romans 12:1-2 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Isaiah 40:31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Jeremiah 31:3 Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
Proverbs 4:20-22 My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. 21 Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, 22 for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.