He ran, stumbling, panting, lungs searing, mouth dry, the bear not far behind. Catching up, probably, but he didn’t dare look back.
Bursting out of the bushes, he saw the edge of the cliff too late and plunged over, falling headlong into the abyss, rolling as he went, unable to control his fall in any way.
Just as suddenly as he had fallen, he was jerked to an abrupt stop. He almost blacked out from the snap. He looked over his shoulder to see that his backpack had caught on a small tree.
He hung there, still gasping for breath. Above him he could hear the bear pacing at the edge of the cliff, it’s ground-shaking growls raising goose bumps on his arms.
He looked up; he was only about 8 feet below the edge of the cliff, just out of the bear’s reach. He looked down and then closed his eyes. It was a sheer drop of hundreds of feet.
Shortly the bear stopped growling and he could hear it scuffling away in the bushes, then silence.
He hung there helplessly, humbly, hopelessly, alone. He tried to reach behind him to grasp the little tree, but to no avail. He could do nothing, nothing to help himself. He shouted, “Help me! Somebody, anybody, help me!” There was no answer. He hung his head in despair.
Time passed, but how much was hard to tell, 15 minutes? An hour?
“Hey, down there, are you alive?” came a voice from above.
He was startled out of his dark thoughts. “Yes, yes, I’m alive, but I stuck here on this tree!”
He could hear the person take off his backpack, “Ok, I can see how you are caught on it. Here, I’ll throw a rope down to you. Hopefully when I pull you up I can loosen you from the tree.”
The rope slapped down on his shoulder and he was able to grab it.
“You will have to hold tight, I’ve put a knot on the end to help you get a grip,” said the voice. “I’m going to pull you up now. You only have to hold on, believing that I can do it.”
The rope tightened, pulling his arms over his head, then his whole body began to inch upwards. Then stopped.
“I can’t lift you off the tree, you are stuck. See if you can roll to the side and free yourself.”
He tried not to look down while he leaned to the left, then the right. His grip was sweaty and tense. He felt himself come loose from the tree, swinging to the side, free to fall into the abyss or be pulled up.
“Ok, I think I’m free now,” he panted.
The rescuer began to pull again and he was drawn up, inch by inch, twisting as he went until he was facing the cliff.
He felt the edge of the cliff on his forearms, then his eyes cleared the edge and he could see his rescuer. The small man had the rope looped around a stubby tree to give extra leverage and was pulling hard, leaning backwards towards the cliff, beads of sweat on his forehead.
Then he was up to his waist, then over the edge, this time on the safe side of the cliff. He let go of the rope and rolled over to get further away from the edge.
His rescuer, still pulling with all his strength fell backwards as the rope came free, plunged over the cliff and disappeared from sight. He did not get caught on a tree. And the cry of anguish did not come from the rescuer but from the rescued.
He sat up, groaning, thankful to be alive but shaken to the core and overwhelmed with shock. Putting his head in his hands, he groaned, “I killed my rescuer! My selfish impatience caused him to die! My life for his death!”
So it is with us. Satan pursues us to the edge, we fall over, God catches us, Jesus comes to our rescue, sacrificing Himself because of our foolish sin and selfishness. He dies while we are snatched from the jaws of death and given a new chance at life.
Knowing this, our whole being should change direction. Our passion should be for our rescuer, the core of our being should be one of thankfulness, of love of obedience to the One who died for us.
Our first love for Jesus can well up each morning as we remember how He sacrificed Himself, as we think of what He has saved us from, how He continues to save us every day in the wilderness of this world.
How great is my first love?