The Paradox of My Salvation
About a lesson I learned while we learned how to rescue people.
In a high ropes course it can happen that, for whatever reason, a person is unable to get to the ground by themselves. During our training we practiced this event. I was hanging on a metal cable in the middle of two trees, more or less sitting in my harness, waiting for help. One of my team mates played the role of my rescuer making his way over to me with a so called rescue bag hanging over his shoulder. He took a first carabiner out of the bag and clipped it onto my harness, a second one on to the metal cable above our heads, a third one onto his harness. By doing so he created a complete new system that I was attached to, which made me independent of my original safety system. He then grabbed a knife, took a deep breath and cut the two ropes of the first system. And suddenly my full body weight was hanging on the new system he had just set up for me. Finally my helper belayed me down. I was safe and sound with my feet on the ground.
In kayaking one possible rescue, a T-rescue, looks like this. Imagine I tip over with my kayak (which happens a lot to the beginner I am) and hang upside down in the water, unable to breathe. With my hands I tap on the sides of my kayak and slide up and down to signal my need for help. Another kayaker will eventually come to me and place his kayak in a 90º angle to mine; bumping a little into the side of my boat in order for me to notice that he is there. I then can hold on to his kayak and flip myself upright.
Both scenarios have similarities. In both situations I depend on help from the outside to experience a change of my circumstances. I can’t escape them by myself.
But they have also two significant and very interesting differences. In the challenge course I can see when help is on its way, while hanging upside down under a kayak I have actually no idea if anybody first noticed that I tipped, and second will they make it to me before I run out of air. Therefore it is always a moment of great relief when someone bumps into the side of my boat and I can flip back up.
The other, and for me even bigger difference is the level of my participation in my own rescue. Sitting in my harness, hanging on to my two ropes on a metal cable; I do nothing what so ever to be rescued. Everything depends on that other person. I just let them do their job and I will be rescued.
A T-rescue in kayaking is there very different. Yes I need another person to offer me their kayak to hold on to, but then I have to become active myself, holding on to them and flipping my kayak back up. Those things have to come from my effort.
I thought to myself, “What an interesting allegory to my life.” It seems to contradict each other and yet I believe both things to be true. Just like in the challenge course my salvation depends on someone else. I have nothing to add to it. Christ chose me, he pursued me, and he did everything necessary for me to be saved.
But then there is also the T-rescue. I experience moments when I have the impression that it is up to me to get saved. By saying this I do not mean I could provide the means for my own salvation, but more that I somehow seem to have the capacity within me to say ‘no’. If I want to, I could choose to stay under water. The person coming to help me cannot make me actually receive their help. The initiative lies with my helper, but I can be a fool and reject their offer to get me back to where I can breathe. I can be a fool and reject Christ’s offer of life, I can deny my need for help and pretend to be comfortable within my deathly circumstances.
What a paradox: an all-powerful, sovereign and independent God on one side and I, seeming to have my own will, on the other side. There is a lesson to learn for me here. I can rest and find peace in the fact that Christ has me in his hand and I am safe there. At the same time I am challenged to become active, to hold on to him and to pursue him as my Lord.
Lydia is a first year student on Orange Team. This fall she specialized in Kayaking.