Bone Breaker/Way Maker

On October 14, 1987, Jessica McClure, age 18 months, fell into a well in her aunt’s backyard in Midland, Texas. For the next 58 hours, as rescue crews worked around the clock to free her, “Baby Jessica,” thanks to cable TV news coverage, became “everybody’s baby.” Jessica was severely dehydrated and had little time left when paramedic Robert O’Donnell made his way into a horizontal tunnel that had been dug under Jessica. O’Donnell would learn that Jessica had one leg pinned over her head. He was reluctant to pull on her, for fear of injuring her.

The moment was dramatized in the 1989 TV movie, “Everybody’s Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure.” Before O’Donnell entered the tunnel, a doctor makes the situation crystal clear to him:

“If you have to pull, if you have to break her bones, her arms, her legs; don’t worry. As long as her head, back and neck are intact, we can fix the rest. Whatever breaks, breaks, do you understand? Break her bones if you have to but get her out.”

O’Donnell dislocated Jessica’s hip, but otherwise was able to free her unharmed. The doctor’s words may sound cruel, but she understood what was at stake: broken bones that could be surgically repaired versus death by dehydration.

Psalm 51 teaches us that sometimes God feels the need to break our spiritual bones when we don’t realize we are dying of thirst. It is in this Psalm that King David asks God’s mercy after the prophet Nathan confronted David over his adultery with Bathsheba. In verses 1-4, David acknowledges that he has sinned not only against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah (whom he arranged to have killed in battle), but against God Himself:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Psalm 51:1-4 (NIV)

In verse 7, David asks God to cleanse him of his sins and then in verse 8: “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.”

William MacDonald in “The Believer’s Bible Commentary” interprets David’s words this way:

“When I sinned, I lost my song. It has been so long since I have known what real joy and gladness are. Let me hear the music of rejoicing once again. In my backslidden condition, it seemed that You had crippled me by breaking my bones. I could no longer dance before You in the holy festivals. Now heal those fractures so that I may join Your people in praising Your name in the dance.”

Many believers have lived with fear, anguish and anxiety, crushed spiritual bones, because they couldn’t bring themselves to confess to God the sin He was already well aware of. When we do confess, God releases us from the captivity of guilt and shame, just as Baby Jessica was freed from the well. And He will heal our broken spiritual bones.

Jessica McClure Morales turned 37 in March. She has no memory of her 58-hour ordeal. When we allow God to pull us out of a tunnel of sin, shame, guilt and regret, we can trust that if He must break bones to do it, He will heal them. And like Jessica, we can live life as if it never happened.

— Pastor Jerry Bader

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