Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
A woman was walking down the street one afternoon when, all of the sudden, the ground fell out from beneath her and she tumbled into a giant sinkhole. After brushing herself off, she realized that the walls were far too steep for her to climb out and she began to cry out for help.
A doctor happened to be passing by and he looked into the pit when the woman yelled, “Hey! I’m stuck down here. Can you help me out?”
The doc thought about it for a moment, pulled out a notepad, wrote a prescription, tossed it into the hole, and kept walking.
Later, a preacher came walking along and the woman shouted, “Hey Rev! Please help. I’m stuck down in this hole and I can’t get out!”
The pastor slowly put his hands together, said a prayer for the woman, and kept walking.
Next, a sweet older woman from the local church walked to the edge of the pit and the woman yelled, “Please help! I’m starting to get desperate down here.”
To which the older woman replied, “Honey, don’t you know that God helps those who help themselves?” And she kept walking.
Finally, a friend of the woman in the hole arrived. “Hey! It’s me down here!” she shouted from the depths, “Can you please get me out?” And the friend immediately jumped straight down into the pit. The woman couldn’t believe it and she said, “You idiot! Now we’re both stuck down here!”
But that’s when the friend said, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out…”
I love that little anecdote and, full disclosure, I stole it from The West Wing. Ever since I heard Leo McGarry share the narrative with Josh Lyman it has rattled in my brain because it’s basically the Gospel.
God, in Jesus Christ, is the friend who rather recklessly jumps into the depths of our depravity and our despair. God never abandons us even when we go off assuming that we can (or should) do it all on our own. God humbles himself to the humiliating status of humanity just to come down in the muck and mire of our lives.
God comes to us.
That’s the whole point.
We might like to think that the journey of our discipleship is about climbing out of our badness into a life of goodness, but it’s actually about recognizing our rather desperate situation down in a deep hole and how God, bewilderingly, chooses to come to us.
The grace of God made manifest in Jesus Christ is not something we can earn, buy, or even work for. To put a finer point on it – we cannot help ourselves into grace.
Grace is something done to us and for us.
It jumps down into the hole next to us, and it shows us the way out.
And, because I often think music does a better job at expressing theological principles than mere words alone, here are some tunes to get us thinking about how God comes to us, rather than the other way around…
Bayonne’s “Drastic Measures” is a propulsive and percussive adventure of sonic goodness – I challenge you to listen to the song without tapping your foot or bobbing your head. And I love how the chorus is an anthem of what it means to take drastic measures, not unlike what God was (and is) willing to do for us.
Erin Rae’s “Love Like Before” demonstrates how the guitar-and-voice singer/songwriter can evoke such intimate ideas and melodies in a song. The charm of this particular song comes from its reflections on a life of looking for love only to realize, in the end, that it was there the whole time.
“We Are Gonna Be Okay” from Dan Whitener made regular appearances on the pandemic playlist in my house over the last year. The song tells the tale of a courtship and marriage, but the real power comes from the harmonic chorus that demands to be shouted with full lungs (and full hearts).