Rescue Operations

eee4fad7b3b47509c622efbbda66e2ec “(God) did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation…” (2 Cor 1:8-11, The Message)

My son and I watched the movie “Frequency” last night. It’s a science fiction thriller about a father and son who “accidently” connect over a shortwave radio – the twist in the film involves a time difference of 30 years – so the adult son is talking to the dad of his 6-year-old self.

My husband and three sons sometimes look at me with a little bemusement when my tears start coming, but I have a tendency to really empathize with characters in movies, to get lost in the big emotions, and this was my kind of movie – a science fiction thriller with lots of twists, culminating in a surprising rescue and, ultimately, redemption.

I love any movie with a rescue theme if it has a “good” ending (i.e., animals and people survive!). And when you think about it, so many of the really great movies have some sort of rescue in them. It touches something deep in our human spirit. Does any other species go to such great lengths to rescue one individual? The person who’s trapped in earthquake rubble? Stranded on the side of a mountain? Lost at sea? Caught in flooding? The victims often never see the rescue operations that are underway – they only have hope as they wait for a rescuer to appear.

So many of my own prayers are some form of asking for rescue – for myself, family members or friends – to be rescued from an addiction, a disease, a relationship, severe depression, a bad decision, a bad job, etc.

I have come to believe that I pray to a God who rescues – the God who has made “rescue” a primal drive in our spirit because that is who He is – a Father who rescues. Take one look at the psalms, and you see the cry of the human heart – the desire to be rescued and an expectation of being rescued! How many times have I been able to relate to the psalmist who cries “See my pain and rescue me!” (Psalm 119:153, The Message) or “Reach down from above! Grab me and rescue me…” (Psalm 144:7, The Message) or “O God, please be willing to rescue me! O Lord, hurry and help me!” (Psalm 70:1)

How many times have I lifted up a prayer like that to the Lord? Probably too many to count.

And how many times has the Lord orchestrated a behind-the-scenes rescue that can only be seen if we choose to see with spiritual eyes? “Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders.” (Psalm 119:18, The Message)

Just a few weeks ago I was running around Evergreen Lake when I saw two female elk grazing on a patch of  grass a few feet above the trail. I don’t know what it was – maybe the fact that I had a dog with me, but one of the elk suddenly hopped down from the retaining wall and started chasing me and poor Sammy along the trail. I couldn’t believe it! I turned and said in my biggest “alpha” voice “NO!” It startled her and she briefly stopped, but immediately resumed her chase – just a few feet behind me. Again I turned and yelled “NO!” – she continued running after me for a few seconds, then for no apparent reason veered off the trail and into the shallow stream below. My heart was pounding as I looked back at her.

Lord, what was that about? When I got home and prayed, I had a sense that angels somehow were involved – those celestial guardians you can’t see but often serve as rescuers in the Bible. When I run, I often pray for the protection of angels as I start out. I imagined an angel jumping between me and the elk, a warrior blocking the trail.

This weekend I had the opportunity to see rescue in a more profound light. I attended a Christian Healing Ministries conference, and the schedule allotted time for healing prayer.

I was led to look at a situation in my life where I needed rescue – but on the surface it didn’t seem to occur.

It happened shortly after I got married when I was kidnapped and raped by a stranger who followed me home.

I envisioned being in the car with the kidnapper as he threatened to shoot me – in my mind’s eye I saw Jesus coming in a bright light, with a sword in His hand, in what I would describe as total majesty – an army of angels behind him. As He entered the car, my attacker seemed paralyzed, totally powerless as he gazed upon Jesus and His army of angels. I anticipated Jesus gently picking me up and spiritually freeing me from the life-threatening situation. But He didn’t – He ordered the attacker to take me home!

And that’s exactly what happened in the real scenario. My attacker had been telling me he was going to kill me, when suddenly he told me that if I promised not to tell anyone, he would take me home. As I look back, I can see that there was absolutely no reason for him to change his mind – UNLESS some prompting on an unseen, spiritual level told him to do that.

What’s also amazing is that I had no relationship with Jesus at the time. I was totally detached from my religious roots, not attending church or participating in any kind of religious activity.

But that didn’t matter to God. He’s the Father who sent Jesus to rescue us – the Good Shepherd. The Jesus who rescued me wasn’t the one depicted in so many pictures, a soft-featured man carrying a small lamb. No, this was the shepherd like David of the Old Testament, who God called “a man after my heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). David gives a shepherd’s “job description” to King Saul: “Whenever a lion or bear would come down and carry off a sheep from the flock, I would go after it, strike it down, and rescue the sheep from its mouth. If it rose up against me, I would grab it by its jaw, strike it, and kill it.” (1 Samuel 17:34-34)

THAT was the Jesus who rescued me – the one who grabbed me from the mouth of death, who fully intends to enter the drama of our lives, answering the cry of our hearts to be rescued.

Did I still experience the emotional pain of being kidnapped and raped? Yes. But I lived – and three decades later the world is different because I was rescued. It involves my husband, my three sons (none of whom had been born at the time), and family and friends.

When I really embrace that knowledge, of truly KNOWING Jesus is the Good Shepherd who rescues me over and over again (just as Paul tells us), life becomes full of promise and hope. Instead of stepping into fear, I step into my identity as the main character in an epic drama who is the object of rescue.

If we choose to see with spiritual eyes, watching for His works and signs of His presence (Psalm 105:1-5), I believe we see his hand reach down from above – we see the miraculous rescues that form the constellation of our lives and the lives of those around us. And even though I don’t see the rescue operations underway, I trust that the Rescuer is coming.