Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The not so small difference between a rescue and a recovery.

The not so small difference between a rescue and a recovery.

No one I love has ever disappeared. Physically speaking anyway.

No one in my family has ever gotten lost in the woods or vanished in a city. No boats have ever gone missing at sea, no horses returned home without a rider.

But if they had, if someone disappeared, the first and perhaps worst sentence I could hear would be this:

“We’re launching a search and recover instead of a rescue.”

That doesn’t seem like a big sentence, but it actually represents an important crossroads investigators reach in every case. It is at this point that they reveal what they truly believe about the missing person. A rescue is an effort geared at saving someone alive from a danger. A search and recover is an operation designed to retrieve a body of someone that already lost the fight to a particular danger.

Those are some rather morbid Tuesday thoughts, but they reveal something about my heart. You see, all too often in my own life, I decide that certain people are not worthy of rescue. I give up on them. I leave them on the side of the road and focus my day on search and recover efforts.

That is how things were with my friend Mac. He’s an alcoholic. When a mutual friend told me he had been arrested for DUI and was probably going to jail, I didn’t care. When my friend asked me to help raise money for his defense, I didn’t give. When that same friend said Mac needed our spiritual support, I didn’t pray.

Mac was too far gone I thought. Mac was a hopeless cause. Mac was at best, a search and recover. Give up on Mac already I said to myself inside.

Is there anyone in your life you’ve given up on? Maybe your parents hate God. Maybe, aside from God because I don’t think this is just a spiritual issue, they don’t even really like you. Maybe all the love and forgiveness you throw at them just gets thrown back in your face. And so you don’t try to rescue them anymore.

Another friend is coming to that point with his wife. She has moved out. Like two opposing armies they are gathering the pieces of their lives as evidence for what may be a drawn out, difficult custody battle. The idea of rescue is long gone. They are going to kill each other and then when the dust settles, perhaps they will search and recover what was lost.

This is a difficult life sometimes. Rescue is not easy, especially if the person missing is doing everything they can to not be found. But I think that might be what we are called to do. Yesterday on 97secondswithgod I wrote that God says he made us his “watchmen.” And I don’t think that means trying to spot dead bodies in the wilderness of the world.

I think that means going to the places where hurt reigns and offering our hands. I think that means returning to places we don’t want to ever go back to and offering our hope.

Mac is in my small group now. He’s been sober for two years now and reconciled with his wife. Some people didn’t give up on him. I did, but never again.

It has to be rescue.


Hope said...

I'm not so sure if I've actually given up on this person in my life. I still pray for her but she's a tough cookie. Everything about her behaviour and speach tells me that she's screaming to be rescued but every attempt I make is as if she's refusing the life preserver. It's her constant refusal that beats me down. Frankly, I'm not sure if I can do anything other than continue praying for her now. It's frustrating and my flesh is more than willing to give up. My spirit is confused about what to do next.

Prodigal Jon said...

Hope -
I think sometimes we don't allow God to creatively define what rescue might mean. I read something once in a book called "Boundaries" that said "People in denial are deaf to words, they can only learn from pain or hurt." I'm not sure, but I wonder if sometimes "rescue" is us setting up strong boundaries with a person and being willing to not be a part of their life for a season if that's what rescue requires. I don't know.

JJ said...

I think sometimes we can also forget that God is really the only rescuer. I was talking with some friends last night about how hard-headed we can be (hummankind). And how we can be given chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity to better our lives through breaking addictions, habits, behaviors, whatever, but we just don't do it. It usually isn't until we experience a brokenness (I believe brought by God) where we realize all of our chances are gone that we then come to terms with our "sickness." Once God has our full attention he can show us the way home. Unfortunately, pain is sometimes the best teacher.

Jason said...

This reminds me of why I so strongly dislike the word "recovering" to describe a Christian who was once bound by habitual sin. I have been to Christian 12-step meetings where the leader introduced himself as a "recovering alcoholic." I'm all for humility, but who wants to be led by someone who hasn't found freedom?

Of course, we're all still tempted by our sins of choice. Mine happen to be porn and food. However, I want to walk in freedom rather than perpetual "recovery."

I realize that this is only loosely tied to this post, but to me it is another example of the feelings of futility that the word "recovery" evokes.

Anonymous said...

I'm not totally sure that I like the term "rescue" either. I think that it gives us too much credit and responsibility.

Is it really our responsibility to rescue people or is it our responsibility to be willing instruments of God in other people's lives? I know what you are saying though - we need to be those instruments and not judge the current state of the person. As the theologian Monty Python said "I'm not dead yet" :) (i know that i just showed my age).

Anonymous said...

God rescued me in my brokeness when I was depressed and suicidal. I believe he is the only one who could have rescued me. I had heard the "good news" many times before I was 35 but I turned away time and again. (And still, I was 40 before I accepted it.) I agree with chief320 that we have to be willing instruments of God. When he calls us to pray or befriend those those who seem past rescuing, we should obey.

I pray for my best friend's ex-husband, who abused her during their marriage. He is the ickiest person I've ever met and I wouldn't willingly pray for him. But one day, God told me to pray for him and I argued. So, God reminded me of the mercy he's bestowed on me in my life and boy, was I humbled. I can't stand this man but I pray knowing only God can rescue his very lost soul.

Anonymous said...

i've given up on too many. some i can name right now, others i can't (but i know they're there). i need to mull over this a bit. thanks.