Driving on the highways of Texas and New Mexico, the neon crosses and stark billboards would loom in the distance for miles before you could read them: “Jesus Saves.”
Or in the street, at a park, or at a public event, a stranger with a handful of tracts might ask, “Are you saved?”
For most of my life, and especially in my years away from the church, my internal reply has been “saved from WHAT?” From burning in hell, which is what the people asking seemed to be asking about? I was pretty sure I didn’t believe in hell, or at least in a hell that was a place, with fire, and maybe a devil in a red suit. Those seemed like bogeyman stories to me. They seemed like things TV preachers warned about, or (on the more cultured end of the spectrum) things Dante wrote about. I’ve never been scared of hell. Concerns about the afterlife are not why I’m a Christian.
So as an adult, even as I have grown to love Jesus and know him more and more, the idea that he was saving me has always seemed a bit abstract. I have problems, yes, but am I in danger that he must rescue me? I sin, no doubt, but somehow I’ve never been afraid of ending up in hell; I believed it when Jesus said that he loved me and redeemed me.
But in truth, there are many, daily times I need saving, times I long for rescue from something. I long for rescue from my own bad moods. From my pessimism. From my incessant judgment of myself and, consequently, of others. From racing thoughts. From persistent, needling worry. From that “stuck” feeling I get– stuck in a situation, or with a person, or with a problem. Stuck with my same old self doing the same old patterns. Times when it seems nothing I do will make a difference. Overwhelmed, I long for rescue.
That’s how Jesus saves me. He swoops in to be with me when I’m really not fit to be with. He lifts me out of my own head. He lets me glimpse here and there how God sees things, restoring some perspective. He accompanies me through the bad moments until I’m unstuck.
I have no doubt that Jesus also saves me in the afterlife. Through Jesus we will have eternal life. But we also have life NOW through Jesus as he saves us NOW from the hells we make for ourselves. It is as Psalm 23 says: “He restores my soul.” And it is also as that same Psalm says: he restores it “all the days of my life”, not just after it has ended.
By David Shankbone (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons