Ruin and Rescue

20 Pentecost, October 2
First reading and psalm
: Lam. 1:1-6Lam. 3:19-26 or Ps. 137
Alternate: Hab. 1:1-4, 2:1-4Ps. 37:1-102 Tim. 1:1-14Luke 17:5-10

She sits alone, weeps bitterly in the night, mascara-dyed tears on her cheeks. A bottle rests nearby. No one consoles her. The friends she once had have become treacherous, enemies really, foes who deepen her suffering and servitude (Lam. 1:1-5). The night and time run out in a boozy haze, and then sleep comes. The morning is affliction and gall, regret and self-loathing. Life, such as it is, begins again, pacing toward an evening fall. And yet she is so competent, so strong by day, so happy among colleagues. She smiles as she must. But the night is for mourning, groans, and grieving (Lam. 1:4). Her song is full of sorrow, her mirth the comic sound of despair (Ps. 137). Weeping and tears take the night again. There is nothing new under the sun. This is but one way to ruin a human life, but perhaps the most common way of all (see Ann Dowsett Johnston, Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol: Harper Collins, 2013).

Who is she? Still, beneath the ravage of loss and self-injury, she is a daughter of Zion, once great among the nations, a princess among provinces (Lam. 1:1, 6). Her majesty was mighty, her life a shining lamp, her beauty all-brilliant. The clay of her flesh took shape in the hands of love begetting, love begotten, love shared (Gen. 2:7, 22). She is that beautiful, and worth saving. She is a human being.

The promise of life is not far from her (2 Tim. 1:1; Deut. 30:14; Rom. 10:8). There is a small seed of faith, the hope of new growth and power and dignity, an inner voice that says: You have a sacred calling given before all ages; it brings life and immortality (Luke 17:6; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). Help may come in various ways: a true friend who cares, a doctor who listens, fellow sufferers who judge not, a preacher who is unafraid, an outward sign with inner power. She is always saved by “the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:10).

She calls to mind a voice and listens: I have hope, the steadfast love of the Lord, mercies that never end, a new morning, great faithfulness (Lam. 3:21-23). Her soul quietly waits, her mind’s eye keeps watch, her feet stationed on the rampart (Hab. 2:1). She sees her deliverance coming, her long-awaited hope. The message arrives, indelible ink on a plain tablet: the righteous live by faith (Hab. 2:4). The faithfulness of God has done this. The resurrection is always resurrection from the dead. She is finally free.

Her freedom is from God and for God, but also for her. It is her life. She is a person. And so she has a responsibility to “hold to the standard” and “guard the treasure” (2 Tim. 1:13, 14). The help of the Holy Spirit is at hand, moment by moment, day by day, and night by night. From her going out to her coming in, a life-giving power pursues her, dwells within her, leaps up with hope and jubilation.

The word became flesh and dwelt among us. We believe in one God, maker of heaven and earth. And yet with prodigious abandon, we humans waste our time and the treasure of our bodies. Sin is a real sorrow. Salvation is real rescue from the dark pit of death. A Savior comes. Pulled from death, a human being has far more than gasping breath and mere survival. Christ pulls toward his own life, his loving embrace, saying and saying and saying, “My beloved child” (2 Tim. 1:2).

Look It Up: Read Lam. 1:1-2. See her.

Think About It: God’s loving hand pulls you out.


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