Trapped in Your Basement
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
– Philippians 4:6
“I forgot my keys. Wait right here.” My feet pounded down the basement steps. Midway, I heard the door slam behind me and lock! I had no idea my two-and a half-year-old knew how to lock the bottom lock on the basement door. I ran back up the basement steps and told my daughter to unlock the door.
“Mommy, I can’t.”
“Yes…you can. You locked it, so just slide it back the other way.”
“I can’t. It stuck.” I knew she couldn’t because I could barely unlock it myself half the time.
I heard my daughter crying softly.
“It’s okay. Mommy will get out,” I assured her, even though I had no idea how I was going to get out. There was no other door, and there was just a very small tightly sealed window that led to an alleyway between row homes.
Just when I thought, it’s a good thing she’s a very calm child, I heard her little footsteps run back and forth across the living room floor in a panic. Then, I started to panic because I remembered the gas fireplace was still on in the living room. I instructed my daughter to stop running and sit down by the basement door.
“Jade,” I talked to her through the door, “don’t move.” I decided not to mention the fire. “Mommy’s going to get out through the window.”
I walked in the basement bathroom and stared up at the small window that was blocked by a piece of wood. I thought, You‘d have to be anorexic or on crack to fit through that window. Still, I unhooked the alarm wires, moved the slab of wood and yanked and pulled on the mesh screen. It would not budge. In between pushing and pulling, I ran up the basement steps to reassure my daughter that I was okay and would be out very soon. The more I pushed and pulled the more discouraged I became, thinking, I’m going to be trapped in this basement until my husband comes home from work, and there is no way my daughter is going to stay in one spot for hours.
I began to pray, “God, you have to get me out of this basement.” I knew it was more a command than a request, but I was terrified, even though God’s word says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). At the time, I didn’t mediate on that verse. My heart beat wildly in my chest, and I just did not know what to do. I knew there were many scriptures where God promises to help you in your time of trouble, but I didn’t know any of them off the top of my head. The only thing I knew was that I needed God’s help before my curious toddler found something harmfully interesting to do, like examine the blaze in the front room.
Suddenly, I got an idea to get out of the window by cutting through the mesh. I put my keys in the pocket of my sweatpants, so I would have them to unlock the front door once I got out. I ran to the back of the basement and got a hammer out of my husband’s toolbox. I ran back to the window, stood on the toilet seat and started tearing the mesh apart wildly with the back of the hammer. I worked insanely; there was no time to be cute about things.
I finally made a hole just big enough to get my shoulders through. I hiked myself up on the ledge and wiggled through the small window. Mesh scratched at my shoulders, but I didn’t care; I was almost out. Then, I got stuck. I cut the hole just big enough to squeeze my shoulders through but it was still too small to squeeze my bottom through.
I struggled, grunting, groaning, and wiggling. I knew if I really forced my way out, the mesh would tear into the skin on my behind, but what other choice did I have? My toddler was upstairs alone. With my hands on the red brick ground of the alleyway, I scooted my lower body through the window. By that time, my sweatpants were down by my ankles! They had gotten caught on the mesh. I laid on the dirty brick ground of the alleyway in a t-shirt and drawers with my sweats scrunched up by my ankles, praying my neighbors were not looking out their windows.
I laid there in shock a few seconds before pulling my pants up. As I pulled them up, I noticed my legs were scratched and bloody. I laughed and exhaled, thinking, This is unbelievable. I ran to the back of my yard and climbed over our brick wall. I felt like a stray cat, scaling walls, dodging trashcans and running down alleyways.
When I finally reached my front door, I jammed my key in the hole. When I ran in the house, my daughter was still sitting at the door of the basement. When she saw me, she jumped up, still in a panic. “Mommy! You haf to get youself out the basement!”
I asked, “What? What do you mean?”
“Mommy, hurry up! You haf to get youself out the basement!”
“Jade, Mommy is out of the basement, I’m right here,” I said, pointing to myself.
“No…” she cried, “You haf to get youself out the basement!”
“Fine, fine,” I gave in, thinking, she can’t be this dumb. I wish I could say those were not my exact thoughts at the time, but they were.
I unlocked the basement door and walked down the steps. Then I had a scary thought. I yelled up to my daughter, “Do not shut the door!”
“Mom, you get youself out?” My daughter whined from upstairs.
“Yes. Yes, I am getting my-self out!” I walked up the basement steps, hoping she didn’t expect to see two of me. “See,” I smiled at her, “I got myself out the basement.” She smiled back.
During that time in my life, I was filled with more anxiety than word. I wish I could have recited a verse back then that would have kept me calm, but I didn’t know one. I only knew bits and pieces of verses. However, today, I have a verse that may keep you calm when you are locked in a situation that doesn’t have an easy way out. Isaiah 41:13 states, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
Every now and then, you may find yourself locked in your own basement. Sometimes it is a comfortable area. Other times it is dark and dingy. Either way, it’s your basement—a place that is familiar to you, and as long as you can come and go in and out of it at your leisure, you’re okay being there. However, when you least expect it, you may get trapped in a familiar place you no longer want to be. In those times, if you pray and study God’s word, He will help you get out of a seemingly impossible situation even if it is not the same way you came in. However, don’t get discouraged if you get a few scratches and expose yourself along the way. Pull your pants up, climb over brick walls and “run with perseverance” (Hebrews 12:1) because the door you need to go through is just around the corner.
Dear Lord, I can look back now and see how blessed I am to have made it out of so many difficult situations. I am certainly grateful for the number of holes I have had to crawl out of in order to appreciate the blessings on the other side of the door.
By Shawn R. Jones
Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames http://t.co/BxiNwWRG
and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain,