[Christian-based content ahead! If you're an anti-religious sort, avert your eyes lest you melt like that guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark! Just kidding.]
Today (okay, fine, yesterday, since it is 2:30) I taught a lesson in Sunday school about the Martin and Willie handcart companies. The backstory is, they left for the Salt Lake valley a little late in the season and got caught 700 miles from Salt Lake in early blizzards and bitter cold in early October. Their supplies running low, without the provisions they had expected at Fort Laramie, without adequate clothing or blankets, they needed rescue. They could go no further on their own.
A man named Franklin D. Richards and his company, outfitted with light wagons and fast horses, had passed the company in September, and upon arriving in Utah on October 4, informed Church president Brigham Young of the handcart company's plight. President Young, in the general conference of the Church that "just happened" to be scheduled for the next day, called for 60 mule teams, 12 wagons and 12 tons of flour. The next morning 16 mule teams pulled out, with 250 on the trail by the end of October. Many stories of heroism, bravery and sheer determination later, the handcart companies made it to Salt Lake.
Those reading this blog who are Mormons have certainly heard this story before, and there's a reason we retell it so often. First of all, we've all been there. Remember when you were a little kid, and you got separated from your parents at the store? Remember the fear you felt while you were lost, and the peace and safety you felt when your parents found you again? If it wasn't at the store, it was when you made a difficult decision, or were very sick, or were working harder than you thought you could, or one of a hundred other situations common to us all. Perhaps you've been on the rescuing end, and you've watched the fear clear from their eyes, and felt that warm glow inside that comes from doing something for someone that they can't do for themselves. We can learn many valuable lessons about love, preparation, sacrifice and diligence from the example of these Saints. But most importantly, it points our minds towards Jesus Christ, our Savior, Deliverer, Redeemer, and indeed, our Rescuer.
"It is because of the sacrificial redemption wrought by the Savior of the world that the great plan of the eternal gospel is made available to us, under which those who die in the Lord shall not taste of death but shall have the opportunity of going on to a celestial and eternal glory," said late Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. "In times of despair, in seasons of loneliness and fear, He is there on the horizon to bring succor and comfort and assurance and faith. He is our King, our Savior, our Deliverer, our Lord and our God."
How many of us have been through times of despair? How many of us will go through seasons of loneliness and fear? How many of us feel, or have felt, or will feel our inadequacies, our shortcomings, cutting into our confidence like the cold, cruel winds of the Wyoming plains? How many of us will at some point be stranded on the high prairie with short rations and blizzards blowing in? How many of us, in short, need to be rescued? The answer is, all of us. And this is the raison d'etre of Christ.
Jesus came into the world (among other reasons, of course) to suffer like we do. He took upon Himself not only our sins, but also our pains, our weaknesses, our faults, our flaws, our feelings of inadequacy, our sicknesses and death, so that He could know what it is like to be us - so that He could know, in that visceral way that experience alone can bring, how best to help us through the doubt, uncertainty and fear that is being human. He came to help us be better, to help us transcend our weakness. He came to bring us flour and warm blankets and fresh mule teams when we are stranded in the snow. Jesus came, in short, to rescue.
This is why I am striving to be better, why I am trying to take up Christ's offer to leave old things behind and follow Him to a better way. It's why I've decided to try to use my time more wisely (says the man who's up at three in the morning writing in his blog), to seek more balance, to pursue first the things that are real - because Jesus did all this for me, and I'll be a fool if I don't try to become who and what He is showing me I can be.