She was about four years old with no parents in sight. She quietly waded into the swimming pool, straight out to the deep end. Her little face slipped under the water and didn’t come up. I dropped in, jean skirt and all, and yanked her out.
I like to think God had that all planned out. We were on a three-day trip across South Africa in the middle of a dry hot plain when our truck died. It cost us a few hundred dollars in repairs, a long night in a train station, and a near miss of a plane we were supposed to catch on the end of the trip. But the timing of the delay put us in that swimming pool at that very moment. (There’s more of this story here).
One thing I know about God is he’s in the business of saving people.
Like a drowning kid too far under water to make so much as a squeal for help, we’re messed up sinners needing a yank up out of that death if we’re going to live lives worth living. The story of Jesus dying on the cross is all about rescue. It’s about a loving God who didn’t just jump into a pool in his jeans or pay a few hundred bucks in car repairs for us, but went so far as to suffer death himself. All that so our freedom could be bought.
But that’s hard to wrap our heads around.
When the little girl climbed out of the pool, she sat shaking silently on a deck chair. She stared at me with wide eyes, too shocked to say a word.
She didn’t say thanks. She didn’t say anything at all. She looked bewildered, but definitely not joyful.
And let’s be honest, a lot of know very well the story of Jesus the savior, but we don’t show our joy much either. It’s a lot to take in. I was really on the road to death? I was really drowning without God?
It’s easier to deny it than to grasp it.
I have replayed that story of the drowning girl a hundred times in my head. Maybe she wasn’t really drowning—maybe she knew how to swim and just thought she’d float under water for a while. Maybe she was about to come up on her own. I wonder if she thinks the same thoughts herself.
The story I believed then and still believe now, though, is that she was really on the short road to gulping in a lungful of chlorinated water and turning blue. She needed a rescuer.
What do you believe about yourself? Do you really believe you need a savior? Are you trying to teach yourself to swim in this life, do enough good and make enough friends and money that you won’t need any help from God now or ever? Or are you 100% sure God rescued you and living joyfully because of it?
The best interpretation of the evidence I see in the world is that we, like that girl, were drowning. We can’t do it on our own. We need a yank up. We can’t make ourselves good enough. There’s no “enough” without God.
And that, my friends, is something to be joyful about. Maybe there’s a time to sit in shivering shock, but ultimately we’ve got to see we were dying and now are living, and then get up off the deck chair and give Jesus a big happy hug, say thank you, and live like it matters.
We’ve got to choose that certain kind of joy that comes from being saved.
Joy’s not an easy thing to find in this world. If you want more of it, you’re not alone. I’ve been working through a series of blogs on joy, and I’ve heard from many of you that you struggle to find joy. I’ve been hunting through every verse on joy I can find. Here’s a few on the joy of being rescued that I leave you with today:
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Ps. 43: 5
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
And those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
-1 Peter 1:8-9