A Hand Above the Water

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” – Luke 15:20-24

Search and rescue is a deadly serious business, and its practitioners take it as such. The stakes are high, and the implications of success-versus-failure show dramatic departure.

This weekend, a massive tornado ripped through Joplin Missouri, with the death toll now standing at 116. By many accounts, there are portions of the town that were just leveled. In such cases, the response of friends, neighbors, and the rescue workers is unfettered focus and desperation. There are lives to save, and we don’t have much time.

Drudge is reporting that a man, trapped in the rubble of a building, was able to get a text message out to a friend indicating that he was trapped and giving his location (story here). The man was later pulled from the rubble to safety.

It is comforting to know, that when you call for help (a) somebody is listening and (b) they’ll be coming for you. They’ll be throwing aside everything else on their plate for the day/week/month and coming to find you.

Some 2000 years ago, our Lord came to seek and save that which was lost. (That is all of us, by the way.) We see in His ministry and sacrifice the same focus, dedication and near desperation. “People are going to die if I don’t do My job – and I can’t have that.” The Bible says that he carried out the final payment in the search and rescue “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2) – the joy of success in finding what was lost.

Despite what you may have seen or heard from whatever dealings you’ve had with the church world, there is very little formalism to this mission. You don’t have to ask for help “the right way”.  No, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) – God deals in the honest cry for help.

Several years ago, a Baltimore harbor water taxi capsized in a freak storm. In that accident, Dr. George Bentrem from Harrisonburg, VA lost his six-year-old son Daniel (one story is here). Apparently he was able to grab his wife and one daughter, but his son was swept away by the current and another daughter was trapped under the boat in the frigid water for over 10 minutes.

A hand above the water …

My pastor recounted the story just a few Sundays ago in church (The 17 April Sermon, if you’re interested). He’s from Harrisonburg and apparently knew the doctor. The recounting speaks to the heart of the search. Imagine it now, your son has been swept away into the chilling waters. Perhaps he can swim, perhaps not, but at those temperatures nobody holds out long … and you don’t see him. You’ve made several dives into the water looking for him yourself (risking hypothermia and your own life) to no avail. It’s heartbreaking to even consider it (I have three sons of my own).

Consider now the heart of God for His creation. Consider the father’s reaction should a small hand have pressed above the water, even just for a moment. That would be enough. He would have found the target, and moved without hesitation.

When things are desperate, throw up a prayer, throw up a text, give a holler. If you’re buried in the rubble, you can trust that if the message gets out, they’ll be coming for you. If you find yourself trapped deep underground in a Chilean mine, hold on and hold out. They’ll be looking for you – it may take 69 days for them to get you to the surface again – but your boys will be coming for you.

Keep hope alive, for there is hope, and hope is a good thing.

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