Huh, my mess? What?
Really! There's no such thing as self-rescue, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. The cost of rescue is beyond our means, and even then it doesn't guarantee life forever, or insurance against the Black Hole. (Psalm 49:7-9)
Simply put - pulling one's self up by your bootstraps means you are going to 'rescue' yourself - be a success on your own. I don't know how that works for you, but when I have tried it, I fall again! If you are into "self-rescue" - the constant exertion of effort to pull yourself out of the mess you find yourself in - you are likely to fall again because you won't stand very well on your own. Many of us try to deal with life by a series of "self-rescue" attempts - don't we? We simply cannot bring ourselves to admit we messed it up - let alone admit we need someone else to help us out of the mess! As my kids were growing up, they'd pull out all kinds of toys. The floor would be littered with building blocks, little people, and remnants of this and that. By the end of their playtime, just at the point of needing to pick things up so we could "move on" to whatever came next, they'd sit there in the midst of the mess and whine about having to clean up what THEY had done! I cannot tell you how many discussions we had about 'owning' the mess and picking it up. In the end, I'd sit down next to them and begin to help them pick up what they had brought out. Why? It wasn't because I was delighted to "deal with" their toys and mess - it was because I wanted them to understand the love of a faithful God. In fact, when they asked for help from me, I was hoping they'd see just how easy it was for them to approach God with the "messes" of their life they'd be sure to have over the years.
The instruction is really quite plain here - we cannot pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and simply move on. The mess has to be dealt with - just like the toys scattered over every inch of the floor. As long as the toys remained where we needed to walk, we'd never be able to navigate without stubbed toes, painful pricks from sharp edges, and a halting gait that suggested our wounds existed. Our failures, no matter what they are, form the same kind of "blockage" to our path of freedom. We stumble upon them time and time again - unless we let God get down with us, guiding us in clearing them away! On our own, the things of our past which are littered all over the floor of our lives are way too much for us to handle. We just sit there in the middle of them, wondering how we will ever be able to tackle such a big mess. Silly, isn't it? We had no concept of how "big" our mess was until we finally realized we needed to clean it up! As we are "making" the mess, it doesn't seem like much to us, does it? When it is time to clean up - we get pretty disgusted by how much work it is going to be to 'clean up' the mess of our lives - especially on our own! Sin is just like this - we engage in all kinds of sinful deeds or thoughts - then wonder how we find ourselves surrounded by all kinds of daunting things. Thank goodness for our faithful God! He doesn't hesitate to sit down with us in the midst of the mess of our sins, one-by-one picking up the pieces, and moving them out of the path we most need to travel! In church circles, we might call this the activity of grace and mercy in our lives. In parable language, we see God sitting with a child, tenderly guiding the child until each of the pieces are picked up, put away and no longer in life's path where they could cause harm or create delay.
Some of us have more "pieces" scattered around the "room" of our life than others might. We have "pulled out" and "engaged with" more things that serve to just clutter our "space". The amount of mess doesn't matter to our God - it all needs to be cleaned up! Our Lord reminds us we are incapable of doing the "clean up" ourselves - it is beyond us to "pay the price" of our own rescue. My kids used to attempt to "get out of" having to pick up their mess by giving me all kinds of hugs and kisses - sweet talking their way as best as they could in an attempt to just 'leave it all there' for the next day. In the end, did all the sweet talk and affection do much good? Nope! The mess was still there and it still needed to be cleaned up! We might try to sweet talk our way out of the mess we are in - but God is too graceful to let us get away with it! In fact, after all the "loving" is over - he still reminds us about the mess needing attention! He opens his arms and sits right down IN the midst of our mess. We aren't there all alone - he is there WITH us. He is not there as the "mess police" - but as the one who is capable of providing for the "cost" of our rescue. As a mother, I had many demands - dinner needed to be made, dishes needed to be washed, clothes needed folding, schoolwork had to be completed. It "cost" me something to sit down with the kids and help them pick up hundreds of Legos, Barbie doll clothes, and little people! Guess what? It costs God something, too! Yet...he doesn't "balk" at the cost! In fact, he already paid it!
The floor was usually riddled with toys, but you'd also observe fragments of juice boxes, little bits of strings torn from some shabby cloth, or other such "debris" from who knows where. These weren't of any value - they were garbage - they weren't part of our lives, but they needed to be dealt with in the midst of the mess. In "picking up", some of the stuff clearly needed to be discarded. When God is asked to sit down in the middle of our mess, he does so with the intention of not only picking up the pieces, placing them in order once again, but he is also showing us how to discard the stuff which has no value in our lives. He helps to rid us of the debris! Just a few thoughts on the value of admitting we cannot pick up the pieces on our own today - or always identify what we need to part with in the end. Just sayin!