Over The Guardrail

railI saw an old woman frantically waving at traffic. Stopping, I discovered that she and her husband had been busily picking up litter along the highway when he had stumbled and fallen down a steep bluff. Quickly I jumped over the guardrail and headed down to where I saw only straw hat and rear end sticking out of the brambles.

“Surely,” I thought, “the old man is a goner,” face down in the briars and weeds as he was. But Ottis (that was his name, pronounced “Aught-iss” not “Oh-tiss” as his wife corrected me a couple of times), was alive if not quite well.

With the help of an off-duty police officer and the quickly arriving paramedics, Ottis was soon getting the care he needed – along with plenty of simultaneous petting and chastising from his wife, done in a way that can only be achieved by a couple who has lived together for decades.

After the dust settled I said to the wife, “It was smart of you not to go down that bluff to him. If you had fallen too, you might have never been found.” She answered, “Son, ain’t no way I was goin’ down there!” The better part of wisdom, it turned out, was to help him from a distance.

“Ain’t no way I’m going down there.” What if Christ had said such a thing? Looking at us over the guardrails of heaven, I couldn’t blame him for staying put; as any objective observer of planet earth, human nature, world history, or current events would have to wonder why anyone would want anything to do with us. 

Sure, it’s a beautiful world – this creation – and its most evolved beings – we humans – are capable of the highest nobility, altruism, and achievement; when we are good, we are very good. But when we are bad, we are so, so bad, equally capable of merciless violence, contaminating most everything we touch.

This probably ensures that as a species we should never worry about an alien invasion. If there is intelligent life somewhere else in the galaxy, surely such beings are intelligent enough to never get tangled up with us: We would prove to be too much trouble, likely to succeed in self-extermination if given enough time. “Ain’t no way I’m going down there,” would be the appropriate response, though it wasn’t God’s response.

Christians believe that God saw us for what we were: Fallen and flawed, hurt and broken, fallen head over heels into the brambles on our face. And God knew that if anything was going to help or heal us, keeping a safe and appropriate distance wouldn’t be enough.

In the most memorized words of the Scriptures, “For God so loved the world that he sent his Son.” And in love that Son came, because love can actually do something to change us and change our world. We’re not goners yet, and if God has anything to say about it, we never will be.

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