Why do the stories of helpless animal rescue tug so much at our heart strings? Why do they appeal so much to us…and moreover…why do we have such an aversion to animal cruelty/negligence? I think the answers for these questions are pretty well obvious, but something more occurred to me today. This morning, I watched an online video of a man rescuing a dog from the bottom of a canyon. He seemed pretty sure that the dog (whom he named Riley) was put there intentionally by someone, and there was no way for Riley to get out on his own. He was nearly starved to death and extremely dehydrated. After discovering Riley on his hike/rappel, he went back out, got food, water, and a towel and went back down to give Riley the immediate assistance he desperately needed. After this he went down another time to bring him out and begin the process of his recovery. This is a wonderful story of someone helping a creature that was truly helpless and pitiful…all out of the benevolence of his own heart. He could have just kept on going, realizing that this was going to not only be a dramatic rescue operation, but also an ongoing process. This dog could not have lived on its own due to its deteriorated condition. This was going to cost him time, money, comfort, and surely many other things.
He stated how angry it made him that someone would have done that to an animal, and I agree. I think it’s terrible to treat animals as unimportant, or to neglect/abuse them. We are to treat them with care and respect. As I watched the unfolding story of Riley’s rehabilitation, I felt a tug at my heart. It appealed to me. I then asked myself a question: “Why does this appeal so strongly to the emotions deep down within my soul…what about this connects with me on a seemingly spiritual level?”
As I thought about this for a little while…I realized what it was. I connect with this because I can totally relate to Riley. I can totally relate to the feeling of helplessness. I can totally relate to not being able to get out of the pit on my own, nor even sustain my own life once I’m out. I guess what I mean is that I know that I needed rescuing…from a much deeper pit…and immaterial pit…a pit of darkness and despair…a pit of soulful agony and spiritual decay…a pit of personal hell. I needed someone to enter into the muck, mire, and sludge of my existence and pull me out…not just show me the way…because I couldn’t accomplish it on my own, even if I knew the way…but literally grab me, wrap their arms around me, and pull me out…rescuing me from the necrotic filth of the living grave I was in.
But that wasn’t all…I needed rehabilitation…correction…I NEED rehabilitation. I need an ongoing IV of sustenance that I cannot find nor can I produce. After being pulled from the pit, I needed a permanent umbilical cord…a lifeline…with constant nourishment and constant breath…and this made me think of my favorite name…the name above all…the name of the only Hero to ever accomplish true rescue…true salvation.
Romans 5:8 tells us that while we were sinners (dirty rotten scoundrels), Christ died for us. You see…unlike Riley, I didn’t deserve rescue. He is an innocent animal…untainted by willful rebellion against the beautiful purpose for which I was created. I deserved the pit. My brokenness and fallenness is my own…of my own volition…of my own doing…and justice would only be served if I suffered the destruction that was due me. That’s why He traded places with me. He took my place and gave me His (2 Corinthians 5:21). Not only did He pull me out of the abyss which I had cast myself into, but after doing so, once I was out, he placed His identity over me…covering me…replacing my guilt with innocence…and taking my identity as a rebellious creation upon Himself.
God rescued us by meting out justice upon Himself in order that we could/can experience grace and mercy…and He did it because He helps the helpless…He defends the defeated…He satisfies the starving…and He gives grace to the damnable.
I know this is most likely nothing new to you…but I can’t quit thinking about it…talking about it…loving it. I love the scandal of God’s infinite grace…of His matchless mercy. There is so much that I totally don’t understand…and that’s ok…because what I do get is that I am rescued…and I’m alive like I’ve never been before. My reality is not a dead end at the bottom of a canyon with no way out…slowly wasting away within a desert of loneliness, darkness, and despair. My reality is eternity…with my beloved Lord, whom I, to this day, still rebel against and spurn. Yet He never cuts the lifeline…He never lets me go…never.
Being a disciple of Christ has nothing to do with whether or not I’m of conservative or liberal values, democrat or republican. It has nothing to do with the flag of the United States, nor how much I attend or give to the church. Being a disciple means that I have been rescued…and the lifeline is held in place by His strong hand…it has to do with a vacating of the pit…and an entrance to a path…a path of life…forever.
*image used from http://mariovittone.com/2010/05/154/