Broadcast on BBC Radio 2, Pause for Thought, 2003
We all love our independence and many have fought to win our freedom. These days we place great stock in being ourselves and being able to do what we want when we want. But our independence has its limits. We may sometimes have to admit that as great a political concept as it may be it may not count for much when we find ourselves dangling over the edge of a cliff.
One night, last November, Tony Maloney was walking on a cliff. It was a bit blowy that night and Tony was walking a bit too close to the cliff’s edge. Suddenly a gust pushed him right over. Tony tumbled through the air, but managed somehow to catch onto a root that stuck out from the cliff face. He got his hands around it, and clung desperately 20 feet from the top, 100 feet from the bottom. What was in a right mess.
His mind raced, and looking heavenward, he cried out, ‘Is there anybody up there? If there is anybody there, I really need your help now. I’ve led a decent life. I’ve tried to be good, and if there’s up anybody there, please save me.’ Then the clouds darkened over and began to move through the sky at tremendous speed. Lightening flashed and thunder crashed. A booming voice resounded. ‘I am here and I will save you. I will put my hand underneath you and you will drop into the palm of my hand and you will be saved.’
Tony clung silently and thoughtfully and asked, ‘Is there anybody else up there?’
I identify with Tony. I often feel like that in my relationship with God. We often seem to be given choices in life that aren’t really choices at all. Life just seems to throw situations at us that we have no recollection of asking for. And frankly, I would prefer it if life threw them at somebody else. But they are a very definite part of our lives that none of us have ever been able to avoid. I don’t even think any amount of technology, genetic modification or physical comfort can save us from every inconvienience, from suffering, from loss, or from death.
So when life serves us a Tony Maloney–one of those unwanted situations with no escape hatch, it is often best to find our humility. As cool as we are, when we get home, close our bedroom door and are alone with ourselves we know the limits of our independence. At these times it’s more real and more important for us to admit our frailty and declare our dependence on God.