Historically, people have looked for someone, an event, or a thing (Lassie?) to deliver them from times of troubles. The troubles can be days or decades. They can be dark or something much more like Animal House where you might turn to a friend and ask that they deliver you home. Or in prayer to God - Deliver us fro Evil.
In the days of the New Testament there was a hope that deliverance was at hand. That a warrior or a king would come to fight the battle of oppression and deliver them from slavery to a system, a government, a people. One did. But sometimes our deliverance doesn't look a bit like we anticipated. Nor do the end results.
In a way that you might say, You call that deliverance? This is what it looks like on the other side of the river into the promised land? Looks like more dirt to me. Lots of sand. Sand, sand, and more sand. Matter of fact, now that I'm standing here . . . back there way over there looks better. I'll simply go back the way I came. But when you try, when I try, the river doesn't part. The door doesn't open. The road closes. Because we aren't meant to go back there. To the past or where we were. Even if the future doesn't look any more promising than a night in a stable. We're following a call. A spiritual instinct. But as a good friend of mine quotes, "Sister, it ain't easy."
Once upon a time I was walking on a deserted road. Just out walking. Enjoying the day and getting a little exercise and fresh air. When three mangy dogs came upon me. Skinny dogs. Not shop dogs, or cuddle dogs or dogs wearing sweaters. Not Big Dog my best, good buddy. Mangy, skinny, mean hungry dogs. I looked like dinner and they were dangerous. I've never been afraid of dogs in my life. Well, only once of some junkyard Rottweilers wearing spike collars but I baby talked them into a tail-wagging face licking frolic. These dogs would have been licking their chops discussing just how tasty I was before the baby talk settled.
I walked backwards, I grabbed a stick. They flanked me. Begin to inch closer, closing in. So, I prayed for deliverance, talking to God fervently making deals no doubt. And, also told Him that if he wanted to just send three bolts of lightning and smoke those dogs to ashes and dust right there on the spot I was all for it. Yes, I love dogs but you get in that situation and they may as well be three Velociraptors closing in.
There I am yelling my head off at God and I look up to see an old, old - OLD man come walking up out of the woods. He wore pants with suspenders and an old shirt, long grey beard, grey hair. Moved kinda silent like. No footsteps on leaves. Looked like some old miner from the Gold Rush days. Just like that. He stopped and looked at me at the edge of the road. I asked -
These your dogs?
He shook his head, No.
I'm just trying to get home - that's all.
He looked at me for a while that seemed like a long, slow time. Then he raised his long arm, sleeves rolled down to the wrist even though it was Summertime, pointed off Southward and said -
He backwoods talk that is Get on out of here. And suddenly all three dogs turned and ran like someone had poured scalded water on their backs. The man just looked at me again. Silent. Me saying Thank you, sir with a kind of quiet reverence. He nodded slightly to me and turned and walked back into the woods. I turned and walked back up the road. Dog-less. Heart-beating.
Later I shared that story around a few tables in that neck of North Florida. They said no old man lived down on that road.
Deliverance doesn't always look like what we expect but with hope, by faith, it arrives.
I pray during this Advent that whatever you may be carrying, whatever may be challenging you that you need a little boot up help with emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, or spiritually - you have the deliverance that is yours at just the right time.