Editor’s Note: This column originally ran April 7, 2017.
Driving around Salida, you’ve probably noticed that we love our bumper stickers. Everyone has the Monarch Mountain sticker. Then there’s folks with the stick-figure family on their minivan. And, of course, you’ve got to have a sticker with the two-letter abbreviation for every single place you’ve visited in the state. Ever.
Have you ever seen a bumper sticker that says “Jesus saves”? Has that ever confused you? I’m not knocking it if you have one of those stickers, but I wonder how many Salidans wake up thinking, “I need to be saved today.” I’m guessing not many.
From the perspective of the Bible, it’s a true statement: Jesus saves. But Scripture also speaks of the rescue of God – what we call salvation – as something that not only happens when we surrender ourselves to God, but also as something that is happening in the present. As in, it’s on going. As in, we need rescuing today. All of us, myself included.
There’s a poem in the Bible (Psalm 107) in which the writer describes several different groups of people who need rescuing.
One of those groups I call the wanderers. They wandered through desert wastelands, hungry and thirsty, searching for what would satisfy. These folks were probably a lot like you and me – simply trying to live a good life and take care of their family. It seems to me that people all across the world are trying to figure out how to make life work – how to live a satisfying life and get their needs met.
But you see, we become wanderers when we begin thinking that people, substances or experiences will fulfill our deepest needs. Some of you may be wanderers. My guess is that many in Salida are searching for what only God can give them: in the bottom of a bottle, on the internet, in that next ski run or through that next hookup.
These wanderers thought they were headed down the right road – until they realized it was a dead end, or it led to where they didn’t want to go. Isn’t that true of our wandering too? Somehow one more drink, one more fling, one more purchase, one more epic raft trip just doesn’t cut it. And you’re left feeling empty. Wandering.
So what did they do? Search harder? Redouble their efforts? No. They cried out to God to rescue them. And, he did.
The other group is what I could call winners. The poem says they went out to sea in ships, they were merchants on the mighty waters. In other words, they were business owners. They make all this money. They probably had employees working for them. They were the captains of their fate. Winners.
Some of you are winners too. You’ve navigated life well. You went to college and got a degree or two. You’re a business owner with employees. You’ve got a second home. You’re retired and living comfortably off your investment portfolio. Society says you’re a winner at life.
In the poem, suddenly a horrific storm comes up and all their money, success and status don’t matter. In that moment they realize a storm can come at any time and disrupt everything in their life. Apparently, cancer doesn’t care about your investment portfolio. It turns out money can’t buy back the years wasted on running a successful business while your marriage and family suffered. And no amount of status can gain you the kind of true friends you need when a storm comes in your life.
So what did they do? Rearrange their priorities? Cut back their work hours to spend more time with their family? No. They cried out to God to rescue them. And, he did.
It seems to me that all of us need rescuing – whether we’re wanderers or winners. The good news is that all it takes is crying out to God. Humbling yourself to ask for his help. You might consider trying that this week. You could say something like, “God, I need your help. I’m lost without you. I can’t navigate life on my own. Please rescue me!” And, he will.
The Rev. Ben Folman is the former pastor of Salida Vineyard Church in Salida.