18 December 2017

Our Great Rescuer

As a part of our sort of Christmas theme, I was recently asked to tell our church a story of how God has rescued me.  My first thought was, "Me? rescued?  I feel like I'm a complete mess at every moment," and my second thought was, "Which story of rescue?  There are thousands."

But, I gave it a moment, and God was faithful to walk me through.  The process was humbling and exhausting and simply beautiful.
A few people have asked for the text, so I thought I'd put it here.


God rescues his people from all kinds of heinous sin.  And my life is a story of redemption from sin.  In scripture, we also see God comfort his people through all kinds of griefs.  From Job's utter devastation to Ruth's poverty, we see God rescue our souls from all our sins and sorrows.   And my life - and I know many of yours - are stories of those rescues. 

But he is also rescuing me from a sneakier devil. 

I have two little brothers.  My middle brother, Cliff, is thirty.   He has for most of his life suffered with mental illness.  He has since he was a teenager struggled with the abuse of drugs. He has spent many months in rehab, in inpatient mental health treatment, in jail, and homeless.   There is an endless cycle of now let's try this - whether it be healthcare or tough love or some sort of program.  My parents are chief warriors in this battle, and my step-parents have graciously shared in this burden. 

And I'm the bossy big sister.  So, my try-to-fix-it level has always been astronomical.  And I married a self-sacrificing civil engineer who is also an oldest child, so you should see him try to fix it. And no one has yet done so.   Through Cliff, God is rescuing me from the lurking evil of self-reliance.  

You know those people in tv shows who get called in in the midst of a sticky situation to fix all the things?  They act as though nothing can shock them and they know the exact steps to take.  That’s me- I’m a fixer. David Strain recently told us that in the prodigal son, we’re all both brothers.  And my younger-brother résumé has not prevented me from wallowing in an impressive amount of elder-brother pride. 

The thing from which I need daily rescue is this self-reliance. It is a root sin for God’s people –we think we’ve got this.  From Sarah making a plan with Hagar to the Pharisees’ corrupt hearts to my control of every detail, we are believers in ourselves.  But, in Cliff's story, I am regularly shown the failure of competence to save - not the best doctors, therapists, unending love of parents, the fussing of a big sister - none of it saves.  And this great grief is a blessing from above.  Because there is no rescuer but that tiny baby boy.  Not even a freezer full of meals and Christmas cards in the mail by the first of December     

I rely pretty heavily on things working the way they're supposed to work. And I train my children in cause and effect – predictable consequences.  I teach part-time, and my subject is logic.  But God doesn't promise salvation through Logic.
 He promises salvation from human logic and salvation unto holy logic.

Competence, logic, and hard work are supposed to be our great saviors -  we're capitalists after all. 

But, our works, alas! Are all in vain; 
In much the best life faileth.   

Through Cliff, I have a front row seat to the utter failure of competence, logic, and hard work.  God never promises - and neither does First Presbyterian Church - to save us from our circumstances.   He promises to save us from our sin.  I have not given up hope that God will work a miracle in Cliff's life - and I hope and pray that I never will.  But, I am daily begging the Lord to help me quit looking for an earthly solution as the solution.   Because God is rescuing me, daily, not from having a little brother like Cliff.  But in and through it. 

There have been days and weeks when we didn't know where Cliff was, and that is only the beginning of the emotional toll.  The faithful have prayed for us, we have been endlessly pastored and loved so well, even in a situation that seems like the worst kind of broken record.  God rescues our spirits in the midst of great grief. As precious as that is, Cliff is still not well. It doesn't seem like there is a rescue plan.  But there is.  I know that. But I don't know that.  But I do know that.  

But that's not how I feel most days.  I know that Jesus is my only rescuer, but I am still making a self-rescue plan at every turn.   Lord, I believe; Help thou by unbelief.   And so I have to, like Martin Lloyd Jones teaches us, preach to myself.  Women are allowed to preach to themselves, after all. ;)     God rescues me through giving me the grace to take control of the pulpit of my mind.  And he rescues me by putting me in a church full of saints who preach – and even sing – truth to me all the time.  I know what scripture says but I don't believe it in my heart; my heart requires constant reminding. God has been abundantly generous in giving me the grace to flee to and sit under truths I know but don't feel. 

And, He knew before the foundation of the world that I would be especially tempted to rely on myself. And so, I burn bread and have far-from-perfect children and children who all came without being planned.  But, God allowed an even more wonderful protection from that temptation to rely on self.  Cliff. As Spurgeon says, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Because of Jesus these waves are instruments of rescue instead of destruction.  

Because of Jesus, there is the thrill of hope, and this weary big sister rejoices. 

Because of Jesus, we can go tell it on the mountain. 

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