Don't Let Go Of the Rope

Our local association of Southern Baptist churches recently met for the annual fall meeting.  At the end of the evening, I walked out of the church feeling so full and so challenged.  The sermon was EXACTLY what I needed to hear, almost like it was written just for me.  The only thing better would have been for the guest preacher to say, "Michelle Stinnett?  This one's for you!"  He didn't have to, though, because I got the message loud and clear.  Almost a month later, it is still rattling around in my brain and I guess I need to share it...someone else must need to hear it.

The text was Acts 9:25, which is the story of Saul's conversion to Christianity and his rebirth as the Apostle Paul.  The focus was on that last verse.  Basically, things were heating up in Damascus.  It was getting more and more dangerous for Paul to stay with his new found friends and brethren.  So, the unnamed, unnumbered brethren put Paul in a basket and lowered him over the city walls, in order for him to escape.  Escape he did and proceeded to light the world on fire with his preaching of the Gospel of Christ. 

At some point or another, all of us become the basket holders.  My mind started a slide show of patients from the clinic.  Many of them are so beaten down by the circumstances of life and the results of poor choices.  Brokenness and dysfunction run rampant and it is no small wonder that they look at us like we have three heads when we tell them that we believe they are divinely created and that their lives have purpose.  Do you think those Damascene believers had any idea of God's plan for Paul's life?   Do you think they had any idea of how he would impact the world for the cause of Christ?  I doubt it.  I have a hard time getting a grip on God's purpose for my life, let alone truly understanding His plan for anyone else.  It's enough for me to know that He has a plan...and it's good and it's for His glory.  We may have some world shakers leaving our clinic.  We may not. Reason #1 for NOT letting go of the rope:  You don't know who's in the basket.

How high do you think that city wall was?  Twenty feet...thirty feet...forty feet?  The text in Acts is not specific.  The purpose of a city wall is to protect the one behind it.  It's not going to be easily mounted.  It's not going to be easily scaled.  As my new preacher says, "use your holy imagination" and picture the gathered Damascenes, with Paul in the basket.  They keep advancing the rope.  They keep advancing the rope.  They keep advancing the rope.  Oh, and it's dark...did I mention that?  Dark enough to conceal the basket from plain view...and dark enough to obscure the ground below them.    Reason #2 for NOT letting go of the rope:  You don't know where the bottom is.  Going back to my clinic, some of our patients move from crisis to crisis.  We aren't privy to when it will happen or what shape it might take.  We also aren't privy to when the next breakthrough might happen or what shape it might take.  The only thing we can do is keep hold of the rope.  Arms burning, forehead sweating, palms begging for mercy, it is ours to hold fast.

Reason #3:  You might be the only one holding the rope.  We don't know how many Damascene Christians aided in this escape plan.  My "holy imagination" puts a couple of them at look out...maybe four on the ropes...maybe a few more standing near to encourage...maybe one on the ground to help Paul out of the basket and point him in the right direction.  I don't know.  It wasn't a solo operation, by any means.  They had a plan and it took everyone of them to work the plan to it's completion.  In the throes of a ministerial effort, we don't let go because we don't know who else is holding the rope.  Some of our patients have told us that we have been the only source of encouragement in their lives. Others have said they felt more love in the hour or so that they spend with us, strangers, than they have from their families and friends.  It is humbling to read those kind of things on their exit surveys. 

We have just come through one of the most horrifying election seasons I can ever remember.  It was like one of those B-horror movies that ends up as fodder for "Mystery Science Theatre."  I have tried REALLY hard to keep my political opinions to myself...meaning, off of social media.  I have no desire to spark any kind of riotous outrage.  There may have been one or two thinly veiled posts, but for the most part, I confined myself to conversations with those closest to me.  None of the candidates matched me or the values that I hold dear.  To be quite frank, up until the moment that I stepped into the voting booth, I didn't know what I was going to do.  I did not vote for any of the proffered presidential candidates.  I wrote in my vote.  You can tell me that I wasted it and you are free to hold that opinion...and we will still be friends.  My friendships and relationships are so much more important to me than to let them dissolve over something like this.  We have so much to do.  Look around!  There are ropes that need to be held and plenty of baskets for everyone!  The contents of those baskets will be different, because of who we are and what is important to each of us.  If you want to change things, don't wait for a mandate from Washington DC...get in there and grab a rope.

You run the risk of rope burn, but it's worth it.  I promise.

 

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