Saturday, September 29, 2012

Come To My Rescue

I need You Jesus to come to my rescue
Where else can I go?
There's no other Name by which I am saved
Capture me with grace
I will follow You…

                My sister Jackie has a dog named Elias-a dog who was rescued from an unspeakable horror. Having suffered so terribly, you would think he would never be willing to trust anyone again. Yet he does. With steadfast devotion, he follows Jackie and my mother all around the house. He watches them with adoring eyes, desiring nothing more than to be near them. He is a dog, yet somehow he knows that they saved him, and now the only thing he wants to do for the rest of his life is whatever pleases them.

                If only we were like that with God.

                I was very young the first time Jesus came to my rescue. I may have been five, or slightly older. I don’t really recall the exact moment when I owned my salvation. I was always profoundly aware of some greater Presence. From my parents and Sunday school teachers, I learned his Name. My younger daughter came to Him in much the same way, his Name not being revealed to her until she came to live with us. Yet she always knew Who He was. For me, I sensed Him in all that I saw and touched and heard as I lay in the grass and stared up at the clouds. I found out that His Name was Jesus, and that He died so that I could be set free. I have loved Him all of my life. When I was seven, I remember whispering a prayer just to confirm that I was His, and to let Him know that I wanted to serve Him forever.

                On my fifteenth birthday I was at a youth conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The theme was “A Walk With Christ to the Cross”. As the details of His suffering were brought home to me, I fell to my knees, overwhelmed by a new awareness of just how much He was willing to go through that I might be saved. As the picture of His sacrifice unfolded, I had a renewed sense of purpose. I stood that night with many others and rededicated my life to Him and to Christian service, never dreaming of where that commitment would lead me. The one thing I knew for certain was that my service to Him would require the surrender of my shyness and timidity, so when choosing classes for the following school year, I signed up for public speaking, a choice I have never regretted. I turned out to be actually quite good at making speeches, and I made an A in the class, but the ultimate purpose God had in mind was to place yet another brick in the foundation of His plan for me.

                Jesus came to my rescue again about five years later. During my last year of high school, I got into some dangerous territory and began experimenting with things I knew were completely stupid. I started hanging around with the wrong people, angry at God because my dad had lost his job and things were not going the way I wanted them to. I never completely gave up my faith, but I began to feel and express doubt. I stiff-armed my Savior because deep down, I knew I was sinking and in my pride I wanted to save myself. But at night I was tormented by oppression and voices that relentlessly told me lies. After I graduated from high school I continued to lead a double life, clever enough to maintain the fa├žade, hold down a job and even show up at church on Sunday morning.

                Then God spoke in a way I could not ignore.

                I had been sick off and on for a couple of months and thought it was simply stomach viruses picked up from the small children I taught. I went to the doctor when it got really bad and he told me it was a parasite I had gotten from my new puppy, gave me antibiotics and sent me home. That night, I woke up in unbearable pain, crawled into my parents’ room and told them I needed to go the hospital. It turned out that I had acute appendicitis. I almost died. I was in the hospital for a week and then had to stay home from work for another month. This gave me plenty of time to think, to pray, and to re-evaluate my life. I decided that God had given me another chance and I wasn’t about to throw it away. I got my life back on track, joined the Young Singles group at church, and enrolled in college. I was twenty years old.

                One year later, my father died from an aortic aneurism. Of course this was no surprise to God. He had been preparing me for it for a long time and, though my heart was broken, I was strong enough now to take it, to move on and do what had to be done, hanging on to my faith with all I had. We were grimly determined to survive and survive we did. In fact, I think the ten years between the loss of my father and the day I got married were the years during which I learned the most about truly living. When there is nowhere else to go, you either die or run to the Father. I chose Him. I chose to live.

                Since that time I have faced many other trials, significant losses and staggering betrayals, personal struggles, and dreams deferred. The theme of our school retreat this year was SURRENDER, and I realized that there are still things I need to surrender, people I need to forgive, habits I need to break. And then, right on the heels of this revelation came yet another crisis. As I write this, I am exhausted and drained, sleep-deprived, and somewhat at a loss as to where to go from here. I am greatly disappointed and tempted to give up hope. But, in the words of Jeremy Riddle:

“His love is deep, His love is wide
And it covers us
His love is fierce, His love is strong
It is furious…”

            Yes, there is that. And if there were only that to count on in this life, it would be enough. But I have seen the goodness of God in the land of the living, and I know that morning is coming. In Narnia, it was always winter, but never Christmas…and then Aslan came bounding back in, and all was done…even though it was harder than they thought. Bilbo Baggins made the journey he thought he could never make, and the dragon was defeated. The little hobbit became a hero, and in the end had all the treasure he could carry. So will we…someday…and maybe a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to remind us He is near.

 “When it’s always winter but never Christmas, sometimes we think that You’re not with us, but deep inside our hearts we know, that You are here, and we will not lose hope.” –Relient K




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