Not too long ago, I was at the beach and watched a young lifeguard pull a man out of the raging ocean. He saved his life. There’s no other way to say it.
The drowning man didn’t look needy at first; he just looked like he was having a hard time getting back to the shore. But he was making no progress and a storm was coming. No matter how hard he worked, the ocean was pulling him harder—out to sea. He wasn’t desperately flailing his arms, but everyone watching knew that he could not make it back on his own. The storm was stirring the ocean water and there was no hope until the lifeguard arrived. Even then, it was iffy. I’ve actually seen this happen twice. Both victims were grown men and looked to be fit and in shape. Both also seemed strong and somewhat surprised that they were in danger. But the ocean is powerful.
I remember standing on the beach, watching the story unfold as the lifeguard arrived and dove into the rough water. The riptide was strong. Eventually, the lifeguard dragged the exhausted man back to shore. With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I kept saying to my myself (or maybe out loud, yeah I’m that girl): “The rescuer saved him. The rescuer saved him.” The moment was completely unforgettable.
But, what happened next was most shocking. In both cases, the one rescued simply walked away once he made it to the safe, dry beach. Neither gave the lifeguard a hug of relief. There was no, “Thank you for saving my life!” No handshake. Nothing.
I suppose that, as strong, grown men, they were embarrassed that they needed to be rescued. Maybe they were ashamed that a crowd had gathered hoping that the little lifeguard could rescue them. I imagine they both would have liked to save themselves. And I understand that.
We Need Rescuing
Everything in our culture tells me to be strong, independent—a self-starter. I’m not supposed to need anyone or anything. I want to be the expert. I want to be the one rescuing someone else. I don’t want to be considered weak and needy. I want to be strong. I want to be capable. I don’t want to be pitied. I don’t want to ask for help. But, that posture simply doesn’t work for us in the context of the gospel and it certainly doesn’t work as it relates to God’s love for us.
When it comes to my salvation, my future, my hopes and dreams, I am commanded to be dependent upon my Father in heaven. I’m in desperate need of him whether I like to admit it or not.
But there’s something more to this story. I think it exposes not only an upside-down perspective that I have regarding my personal strength, but maybe an upside-down view of the Lord’s power.
What if those men that I saw drowning in the ocean were rescued by a big, gigantic, herculean man? What if it wasn’t a young lifeguard that rescued them, but someone resembling a super hero? Would those drowning men have been more thankful? Maybe then they would have realized that there was no way that they were going to survive other than by a miraculous rescue from a mighty man.
The Mighty Rescuer
And, maybe that’s part of my problem. Is it possible that the Jesus in my head is different than Jesus in reality? Maybe in my mind he’s more of a Lamb than a Lion. Maybe in my mind he is more gentle than authoritative. Maybe in the culture of the best friend, big brother Jesus, I forget that he is the Creator, Master, Deliverer, and King. I’m not saying he doesn’t call us friend; he does (see John 15:15). I’m not saying he isn’t my elder brother; he is (see Hebrews 2:11). But I think that in the midst of embracing the tender intimacy I experience with the Father by grace through Christ Jesus, I sometimes forget the majestic, almighty power of the One who saves. You see? He’s both. He’s the Lion and the Lamb.
The Lord is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17). He’s a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46). Yet, I rarely understand that I’m in trouble and, when I am in trouble, I’m too prideful to ask for help. And, when I finally ask for help, I probably don’t realize who I’m asking.
The hymn writer Joseph Heart says:
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.
The Almighty Lord pursues the weak and needy. I may be uncomfortable with being needy, but that’s right where God meets me, in my weakness. Paul said it well: we are to boast in our weaknesses and not be ashamed. This seems to be the best way for Christ’s power to be seen in me (2 Corinthians 12:9). I pray for the humble confidence to respond to his rescuing grace with great rejoicing and gratitude.
Sue Harris serves the congregation at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church (Birmingham) as the Women’s Ministry Director. She has a passion for spiritual formation as she earned her Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta in 2014. She served Mission to the World for nine years challenging PCA congregations in missions as well as serving missionaries on the field through encouragement, teaching and short-term teams. Previously, she spent 12 years as a college women’s basketball coach, earning her MBA at Texas Woman’s University.