“People throw around the word hero pretty flippantly these days, but today we said goodbye to a hero in the very truest sense of the word. My uncle passed away getting re-certified to jump out of airplanes. He wasn’t an adrenaline junky or an adventurer. He was a rescuer. Since 2007, he has put his own safety aside to jump out of planes to save children. My uncle was part of a team that fought to end child trafficking. I couldn’t be prouder of the man that he was. He loved the Lord and his family/friends with all his heart. Generous to the core. A hero. A rescuer. We will miss him so.” -Allison Bruce
The above words were penned by one of my sisters the day of my Uncle Rodney’s memorial service. I’ve been turning them over and over again in my head for weeks now. I just can’t get the words “rescuer” and “hero” out of my head. Traditionally, heroes appear when people are at their greatest need. You’re familiar with the concept, I’m sure. A person is born into filth only to rise from the ashes and become more than anyone could have foreseen or expected. I hardly have to describe the scene for you. We see it in film, in radio, in music, in school. Someone goes from zero to hero, and everyone is always agape in astonishment as the wonderboy reveals his true identity as little Gunther, that cross-eyed, bespectacled, uncoordinated boy from down the street. This is a typical scenario for heroes in our time, but we’re captivated by it still, enraptured by the idea that something so amazing can come from something so unimpressive.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why we never seem to tire of watching this scene played out? It’s like we were made to seek out the unsung hero. It’s like our eyes were made to look to the skies for hope. We don’t dig into the earth looking for light, right? We look up to the skies. Even in the biggest, baddest, darkest storms, we still look up because we know some light still gets through… because we know the source of the sky’s light is powerful, and that the brightest beams always pierce the darkness. Think about that for a minute. Think about the last superhero-themed film you watched. There was likely a moment when there was no hope, when a figurative storm loomed in the sky, and then BAM! out of the darkness, out of the sky, came the hero to save the day. Something in your core yearned to see the darkness broken, ached for the deliverance…and anticipated it all the while.
We long…we yearn…our souls groan from the very deepest places for rescue. Because we were made to crave. We were made to crave hope. We were made to crave peace. We were made to long for a hero. We were made to yearn for Him. And there is nothing, no nothing, that can satisfy such craving but Him who put that hunger in our souls. There is a fountain, a water that quenches the driest of souls. It appears like a mirage sometimes, and our confused and despairing selves cannot tell reality from delusion. We are clouded by our own humanity. We have been wandering in desolation for so long that even hope has become an illusion. We become a sweaty heap of mangled, dry bones, drenched on the outside and starving on the inside. Where is our hero, then? Has he gone into hiding? Is he afraid of our depravity? Has he given up on us?
Or have we given up on Him? Are we so disgusted by our own depravity that we prefer to wallow around in our own filth rather than call on certain salvation? Our hero awaits our signal. He lends His ear into the turbulence of the storm and waits for our cry for help. He longs to rescue you, to cleanse you of all filth, to break the chains that bind to the point of woundings. He waits for you. He does.
As remarkable a man as my uncle was (and he was one of the very, very best. A truly exceptional human), he knew that he was just a reflection of His Father. Rodney Mann knew that rescuing people was part of his mission in his life, and he had a good, good father who instructed him on what he should do. Just like so many who reside in this temporary place, he was compelled to rescue extravagantly because he himself had been rescued extravagantly. To the Heavens he looked for his rescue, and from the heavens he descended to rescue others…just like His Father.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
*For Han, Ty, and Aunt Neenie. May you see the salvation of the Lord each and every moment of your lives as you linger here. You are all so loved. So very loved.*
Thankful for Rodney and many others who serve sacrificially. Bless those who are left with only memories.