"I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior." - Isaiah 43:11
Many years ago I invited my AIDS-afflicted brother to move into my house, which is to say: to swallow his pride, allow me to care for him, and make of my bedroom a dying room.
I would like to say my motives were pure, that I was acting out of nothing more than selfless love for my only sibling—but it was more complicated than that. I wanted to save our fractured family. I wanted to save my brother from all that he couldn't change and to help him find meaning in his obscenely short life.
Still, that room became holy ground. I wouldn't have wanted him anywhere else. Yet it was unbelievably hard; dying almost always is.
But it is even harder, perhaps, to face the reality that we cannot truly save anyone or fix anything. It is harder still to stop buying, working, controlling, sacrificing, imbibing, perfecting and protecting in vain attempts to save ourselves.
Partway through my brother's dying I went on retreat and, although I am an experienced hiker, found myself on the wrong side of a mountain range. My only options were to go back the way I'd come—and likely spend a cold night on the mountain—or to forge ahead.
Asking total strangers for a ride to the nearest town was embarrassing, and having a monk come pick me up was more than humbling. But after months of care-taking, I, the would-be savior, found unexpected joy in letting myself be saved.
What if that were all any of us needed to do? What if we are newly delivered from our brokenness every time we manage to surrender to the truth that there is no savior but God? Now that would be good news—and there is nothing less complicated and more liberating than that.
O God, you are God, and besides you there is no savior. Remind me of that (gently, please), and give me the strength to let you save me. Again.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.