This past week in a conversation over coffee with someone I respect immensely, we talked about how God's love for us plays itself out. In that conversation we talked about how God offers a restorative healing that unfolds over time. So you may experience healing or rescue from a place of pain that is real and legitimate, and will often feel discouraged if that moment of pain lingers years later. Rather than discouragement though, we should see these as the deeper levels of pain being revealed that we weren't ready to engage until we had experienced the previous rescue or healing. In essence, each return to that moment or place of pain and brokenness is another offer from God to heal that brokenness.
Perhaps this storyline will help emphasize the point:
Mr. Stickman finds himself at his friend's house in an empty hole in the ground. Next thing you know his feet are wet. He realizes he's in a pool that's being filled. A ladder installed earlier that day provides rescue.
A year later, Mr. Stickman returns to his friend's house to go swimming in the pool that is now full. However, Mr. Stickman has never gone swimming before, and upon jumping in the deep end finds himself in distress. He is then offered waterwings, thus keeping his head above water and providing rescue. His thoughts go back to the first incident with the pool and he is appreciative.
Five years later, Mr. Stickman - who has moved far away at this point - returns to visit his friend while on vacation. Unfortunately his friend isn't there when he arrives, because she heard a hurricane was coming and that the levy broke. Mr. Stickman is then stranded by the growing flood and torrential rains that won't stop. He's spotted by a news chopper, who alerts the police, and Mr. Stickman is rescued by a helicopter from certain death. He thinks this goes way beyond the ladder and the waterwings.
Fifteen years later, Mr. Stickman tries to reunite with his friend. Unfortunately, due to the change in climate, the polar caps have melted and his friend's house no longer exists (along with the rest of the coast). Mr. Stickman is all alone in the ocean now. But in the moment when he thinks it might all be over, a huge ocean-liner comes to his aid and throws him a line. His mind is blown by the immense size of the S.S. SUCCESS, and how a ship that big would notice a little drowning guy like him in the middle of the cold, dark waters.
It seems that Mr. Stickman doesn't have the healthiest relationship with water. The element always seems out to get him. He could have called it quits after the first swimming pool incident. But if Mr. Stickman steered clear of water all his life then he'd die of dehydration. Instead, Mr. Stickman returns to that source of pain year after year, and as the danger becomes larger and more apparent, the rescue becomes that much more incredible.
Folks, that's a light-hearted-long-winded story of salvation. Our lives are filled with junk. God rescues us from the junk. The junk resurfaces later, but not because the rescue wasn't real the first time. There seems to be deeper levels of healing that God wants to provide, and we need the initial healing to prepare us for what's to come. I think we need it this way so we can actually appreciate the growing magnitude of what God offers us.