Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mercy in the mine

As I write this, the third miner in Chile is being raised to the surface. What a day of rejoicing this is! I couldn't help thinking about the Quecreek mine rescue back in 2002. Remember? 9 for 9! I'll never forget the experience of hearing that all nine were alive!

And now I'm praying for the successful rescue of 33, plus the two brave men who went down into the mine to aid in the rescue. Real heroes. Thank God they still exist!

Following the miracle at Quecreek, I wrote an article titled Mercy in the Mine and I thought today would be a good day to share it with you. While it is not about the rescue in Chile, the theme, as you will see, is universal.

A dirty bucket remains sealed. Inside are nine precious gems no one is to see. They emerged from the depths of a mine, and yet are valuable to only a few. These are not gems to be put on public display. They are not gems that need to be cut and polished. They are to be left alone. Untouched. Undisturbed. For God's eyes only.

Inside the bucket are nine precious letters. Letters written to loved ones the writers thought they would never see again. Goodbyes and tender words. Perhaps some advice and wishes for happiness. Assurances of love, no doubt.

We do not know exactly what is inside that bucket. Neither should we know. These are private thoughts from nine men who suddenly went from the darkness of a miner's life into the brightness of the spotlight. Nine men who thought they were going to die. Who vacillated between hope and despair. Nine men who rejoiced at the sound of drills and grew despondent at the sound of silence.

When interviewed, their composure waivers as they talk about the letters. We hear of bits and pieces, like the words of one writer who said, "I'll see you in Heaven;" an assurance to those he loved that this was not the end for him and that they would rejoice together again someday.

The letters cause us to ponder. We have wondered what we would say if we were facing inevitable death and only had a pen and some paper. Where would our priorities lead us as we wrote? How many of us are living in the darkness of a mine -- cold, wet and seemingly without hope? Will their mine experience change their lives? Will ours?

The miners waited for help to come. They could do nothing on their own, but sit, wait and receive the gift of life when it arrived. They could not work for it. They had done nothing to earn it. It was free to them. The way out of the mine came from beyond their own resources and they simply had to accept it, which they joyfully did.

Mankind was once struggling in a dark mine, trying with everything it had to crawl out into the light, failing at every turn. And then, amidst the great darkness surrounding them, a baby was born and light began to shine.

Jesus is not sitting on a throne somewhere, watching with the Father as men try to dig out of their own personal mines. He made the way out. He lowered the basket.

"Climb in," He whispers.

"No, no," some say,"let me wash up first. I can't come into the light looking like this."

"I will wash you cleaner than snow," Jesus assures them, "Climb in. I will give you rest."

And in His incomparable grace, He raises us up, demanding nothing in return as He brings us to safety. There is no bargaining. There is no repayment required. But oh, how there is love that returns to Him, because of the rescue He has provided. Not obligatory love and service, but devotion born of deep gratitude and awe.

The miners were lifted up into the light, into life. They blinked. They looked around. And they wept as they saw that they were surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses, who were cheering them on and rejoicing in their new life. They were in awe of the multitude of workers, volunteers and equipment.

"All of this to save nine men that they didn't even know," stated one of the miners, astonished and humbled.

So we look to the cross. Life-saving equipment that we would be lost without. There we see the One volunteer who was willing to sacrifice His life to lift us to safety. He did not consider the cost. He did not get caught up in bureaucratic nonsense. With no guarantee of the outcome, He simply did what He had to do because of His great love and mercy.

All we have to do is accept His help. Reach up through the darkness and take His hand. He will lead us to higher ground. With relentless effort, He will try to break through the walls that surround us and carry us to safety. Grace. Amazing grace.

Mercy. Mercy in the mine and mercy at the cross.

Sharing my heart,


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