The Perfect Life Preserver

I’m sure you have read the following story before, as it has been shared many times over email threads. Yet today, as we celebrate Christmas, I ask that you read it from the perspective of yourself being the stranded man:

A man was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help. Soon a man in a rowboat came by and shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.” To this the stranded man shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”

So, the rowboat went on. Then a motorboat came by. The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.” To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So, the motorboat went on. Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.” To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So, the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?” Author unknown.

Our nation has been living through a pandemic that has overwhelmed our health system, created awareness of rising mental health and suicidal concerns, put a spotlight on anxiety and worry, disrupted logistic networks, food supply chains, even shut down schools and universities. This is in addition to a rise in opioid addiction, alcoholism, sex trafficking, homelessness, and many other horrible concerns of our country. On a day-to-day basis, many of us are feeling the chronic stress of life and are seeking a life-preserver to be thrown, and to be taken to dry, stable ground.

If asked, many of us desire to return to the old-normal of pre-coronavirus life. I wonder though, if that is part of the reason the pandemic hasn’t gone away as quickly as we want? Is God using this time to open our eyes and spark our souls to desire more, so we don’t go back to where we were? I bet each of us has had moments reflecting on our old-normal, realizing it wasn’t that good: maybe it was too busy, too disjointed from family, too distracted and/or too shallow.  I bet there were areas in our old-normal that we very much felt like the stranded man.  I wonder if God has been sending us boats to rescue us from those places and prompt us to seek restoration?

Throughout the Bible, there are verses and stories that demonstrate how each of us is created to be in relationship with God, and when that relationship is out of whack, we feel the stress and strain of it. When our soul is missing the peace, love and unity that God wove into our hearts, our natural desire is to find it. If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior, what a great week to read Romans 10:9:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Upon our accepting of Jesus as our savior, we are rescued. Jesus is the perfect life preserver.

For those of us who are Believers, keep reading, because there is another reason why Jesus left heaven to come live on earth. Jesus came to restore us to those first beautiful days in paradise (Genesis 1-3). Since the time evil entered the garden,

We’ve read the groans from the Israelites:

“During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.  God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” Exodus 2:23-25

We’ve read the pleas from King David:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10-12

We’ve read the bold statements of Christ’s divine nature in Paul’s letters (Colossians 1:15-23), (Romans 8:18-21). Some highlights to the people of Colossae:

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through (Jesus) to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”  Colossians 1:19-20

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  Colossians 1:17

Jesus is our Rescuer and our Sustainer. He hears us and comes to restore, refresh, and liberate us. Yet it’s in God’s time, not our time. So, as we wait, how can you draw nearer to the One Who Rescues?

As I reflect on the changes I’ve felt, I revisited the beginning of the pandemic and reread my first coronavirus blog. I’ll be honest, it was written in frustration. I had just completed a heartfelt piece about surrendering a major life decision to God, but the GWP team felt due to the timing, we all needed to tackle how the coronavirus was impacting us. Even my opening sentences display my annoyance with this disruption to my life, commenting “and it’s only day 14!”

Ha, if only I knew how many more days were and are still in front of me. Yet, the blog also shares my hope. Hope for our community and country to grow in what God wants for us… and for the glory to be His. When I look back over the past nine months, the through-line of what God is teaching me is about relationships: Who I have given my time and attention and who gets my left overs. Whose opinions I truly respect, even if they differ from mine, and who I’ve been listening to, yet their actions have made me lose respect for their words. Who has cared for me, and who hasn’t noticed I wasn’t there. Who do I desperately want to spend eternity with, and if I really care for them, why am I nervous to ask if they believe in God? 

God has rescued me from difficult relationships and opened my eyes to relationships where I desire to go deeper. He has taught me how to speak repentance where I have sinned, and to pray forgiveness and blessings over those who may never apologize. I have found the latter to be powerful and life giving, a way for me to heal where my heart and soul have been splintered. My Heavenly Father has been a life preserver when the debris of worry and despair has weighed me down. There is freedom and liberation from drawing nearer to God’s ways and I praise Him for giving me time and isolation to do His work well.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Act 3:19

Friends, Jesus came to rescue ALL. Over 2000 years ago, He entered the world as a poor child, born to unexpected and unwed teenage parents. He grew up unknown, worked hard and to this day, shares his ministry with anyone willing to accept His gift of salvation. You don’t need to feel like the stranded man. This Christmas season accept the eternal Gift of the Rescuer and the life of a cherished child of the Sustainer. It’s a gift worthy of receiving and sharing with others.

Lord – thank you for the Christmas season. Thank you for having a plan that is bigger and better than we can comprehend, and for still loving us as we try to take control and do it on our own. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for loving me and gently showing me where I need more of You and less of the world in my day-to-day. Happy Birthday, from your loving daughter.

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