Tar Nation

Posted on Sep 30, 2014 in Church, Footnotes
Tar Nation

“God drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog.”   Psalm 40:2

Yesterday I did something I’ve wanted to do for about 50 years. A trivial wish, maybe. Blame Walt Disney. It was probably “The Wonderful World of Disney” on which I first saw the La Brea Tar Pits, and it sparked my young mind to ponder the mysterious layers and layers below.

I could have gone in the 1980s, when I was here for seminary, or perhaps later when we came to visit family in Whittier. Early after moving to Torrance, I got the bug to take grandchildren there. They weren’t as excited, but who could blame them. After all, they have far more media, many more channels – several just for Disney.

So I finally made it Monday. They have a 10 minute introductory cartoon. A prehistoric horse wanders innocently into the tar. Then a sneaky saber-toothed tiger takes advantage of the floundering foal, but gets stuck herself. Soon extinct wolves and vultures attack, each group losing a member to the black muck. Very tooth and claw … and asphalt. I don’t think Disney did this one.

But later, I peered into Pit 23, and sure enough, there they were, marked by little colored flags: a horse’s hip-bone in the same layer with remnants of those who would have eaten her – a tiger, a wolf, a vulture. Oh my.

Life can be like that. A misstep into the miry mystery, and we’re stuck. Bickering tooth and claw, and we’re stuck. Glorying in another’s misfortune, and we’re stuck – falling into the very trap we’ve set, as the Proverbs say (26:27). But the pit need not be our end, in this life or another. We are neither alone, nor surrounded only by those who would pick us to pieces. We need not stay stuck in our patterns, our pits. We are empowered to live towards compassion and hope. We have been lifted out of tarnation, and set on solid ground.

“God put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise…”    Psalm 40:3