In recent years there have been phenomenal stories of rescue: from the sea, a mine, a tunnel in the mountain, a cave system, a mountainside, a war hostage situation. Each of these represents hours or weeks or even months of nail-biting anxiety as rescue efforts face untold obstacles, each one adding to the time it takes to successfully complete the mission. As I write this, there are hostages being released back to Palestine and Israel during an agreed-upon ceasefire. Each hostage, and each loved one of those hostages, is celebrating the ‘after’ of what can only be described as a nightmarish wait for everyone involved. Being restored to family and home is a gift precious beyond words.

Other times, there are lesser rescues we’ll call releases, mostly from the anxiety of the moment. I’m not a fan of having blood drawn. I try valiantly to continue breathing as the procedure is underway. I drink plenty of water beforehand to facilitate said procedure. I dream of seascapes, warm breezes and lapping waves to distract me from the incoming projectile. To complicate matters, my veins seem loathe to donate even one single drop. Once the nurse locates her ‘source,’ these skittish vessels of mine do a kind of duck and dive. Several attempts later, much to her relief (and mine!) there is success, and she begins to relax (not alone, I can assure you!). But here’s the point (no pun intended) – walking out of the lab, savoring the ‘after’ of this twice-yearly onslaught, fills me with great joy, and thoughts of my now-permitted breakfast.

God’s signature specialty is second chances. This means with each of our failures, each shortcoming, each blatant disobedience, God stands waiting for us to look up from our disappointment, our disgust, our shame. When we do, we are met with the humbling, loving, accepting gaze of the sinlessly perfect One, the One Who forgives and delights to welcome us back home, back to relationship, back to safety. And with each of these ‘afters’ we are presented with the blessed opportunity of growing up in our ‘most holy faith.’

God’s Word is filled with such events, both in the Old and New Testaments. Heroes of the faith are not exempt from displays of needing second chances, these celebrations called ‘afters.’ Our hope, coming into this Advent Season, is that our unchangeable, loving God is, well, unchangeable and loving. “And hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit . . .” Romans 5:5 TPT. Hallelujah!  PD

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