Sunday, November 27, 2016

Salvation as Existential Spaciousness

My back yard

Are you saved?

I was saved when I was twenty-one. I was walking from my apartment house towards the campus of Northern Illinois University. A series of personal failures and a dramatic, unexpected encounter with God led me to this moment. That was when I prayed.

I had not prayed in a long time. Maybe ten or fifteen years. I did not pray because I did not believe praying would do anything. On the first day of my salvation this changed.

I prayed, "God, if you are real, and you can help me with the mess I have made of my life, I will follow you." That was the moment when I got saved. Or, that was my initiation into the environment the Bible refers to as "salvation."

This salvation is not simply a decision made at an individual point in time. It is better understood as being ushered into an alternative world of existential spaciousness. Philip Yancey writes:

"Eugene Peterson points out that “the root meaning in Hebrew of salvation is to be broad, to become spacious, to enlarge. It carries the sense of deliverance from an existence that has become compressed, confined and cramped.” God wants to set us free, to make it possible for us to live open and loving lives with God and our neighbors. “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free,” wrote the psalmist."" (Yancey, Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?, p. 80)

What I formerly thought was freedom was bondage; what I viewed as bondage was freedom. I am free, in so many emotional, spiritual, and psychological ways. God saved me from my solitary confinement. For that I am eternally grateful.