What Have You Been Saved From? – Part 2

by Maile on June 5, 2013

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(To read Part 1, click here.)

Psalm 40: 1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my heart, a hymn of praise to our God.”

Age 12

I distinctly remember saying the salvation prayer at a winter church camp somewhere in the middle frozen, flat Ohio. In the fragile warmth of a wooden beamed lodge, I hovered over my folded hands and repeated after the pastor. I whispered every word, certain to follow along with precision in case my eternal hope fall into question over a misspoken phrase. With the final “Amen”, Pastor Workman assured each of us that he would one day see us in heaven. Relief filled me: I would get in.

If while trudging back to our cabins that evening, someone had asked me, “What have you been saved from?”, I would have wiped my pimply forehead with the back of my hand and shaken my head in disbelief before whispering, “The smokin’ hot fires and eternal torture of hell.”

Age 20

I quickly found an interpretation of Christianity that worked well within my “perfectionist” framework. I read 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” and broke into a jog in place, rolling my shoulders, shaking out my arms, loosening myself up for the hard work ahead of me. “Alright, girl,” I’d say, “Time to start making a new creation.”

I spent my high school years saying “no” to just about everything the rest of the world was saying “yes” to. But I knew I’d get my reward…one day…in heaven.

I went to college and toed the “yes” line but never stepped right over. Nope, I saved myself for marriage, snagged me a good ole’ Christian boy, and kept right on following the rules.

But when asked “What have you been saved from?”, I imagine my answer would have been rather practical. Peering over the edge of my Primer to Postmodernity textbook, I probably would have said, “I guess I’ve been saved from STDs, chain smoking, a pock-marked liver, and men who only think with their crotch.”

Age 32

After over a decade of church going and checking all the appropriate boxes on the “Christian To-Do List”, my enthusiasm for this chosen faith began to wane. A dear friend died at the age of 37 after fighting breast cancer for 5 years. Shirley, my self-proclaimed “second mom”, succumbed to heart failure two weeks after my fourth child was born; in our last phone conversation, she gushed about how she couldn’t wait to hold him; she never got the chance.

These tragedies, heaped upon years of perfectionist struggles and childhood wounds I kept scratching open, left me faithless. I worked for twenty years trying to do it all right so I wouldn’t have to deal with life gone wrong, but still it did. I read scriptures like John 10:10 where Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and might have it abundantly,” and felt gipped; I’d given my whole life to following the rules and felt nothing but empty and fearful inside.

So when I asked myself “What have you been saved from?”, the answer was easy this time: “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

I cringe to even type out that response now. It sounds so ungrateful, like a bratty 5 year old throwing a tantrum when her trip to the circus didn’t end with the purchase of an overpriced stuffed elephant. But when I sat in the darkness of my depression and chose to take God’s outstretched hand one last time, I decided this time my interactions with Him would always be rooted in honesty.

So we met each day: me, God, and honesty. It wasn’t always a happy trio. To the horror of my 12 year old self, I used swear words with God. I folded my arms like a snotty little teenager and fired accusatory questions left and right: “Where were you…”, “Why didn’t you…”, “How could you…”

And guess what? God could handle it. Time and again, the truth of Psalm 62 echoed in my mind: “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.” He was strong enough to handle my anger, my questions, and my hurt, yet He was loving enough to not leave me in the midst of them.

I don’t know how the transformation took place in my heart. I don’t have ten steps that led me out of depression and into joy, hope, and the abundant life Jesus promised me. The only thing I can say without a doubt is that it happened because I showed up each day, sat before Him, and took His hand. The rest of the credit belongs to Him. I know it sounds too simple. But I think that ultimately it was always supposed to be.

So now when I’m asked “What have you been saved from?” I feel like I could go on for hours. For that version, let’s talk over lunch. But for the sake of time, I’ll let a January 1, 2013 entry from my prayer journal answer for me:

“I just spent some time looking back at some of my old journals. Father, you amaze me. With the gentlest of hands, you walked me through every square inch of this 34 year journey. And when I was most broken, most unsure, you met me right in the mess of it. You applied salve to my broken and bleeding heart and you spoke the most beautiful words to me. You are a gift.”

Now here’s your opportunity: what have you been saved from? 

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