Saturday, March 4, 2017

Eighteen Minutes

 It teaches us that the smallest shred of hope can illuminate the darkest of situations. 
Despite a newspaper advertisement warning, a grand number of 1,962 people set sail on the Lusitania for what would be her last voyage. The date was May 1, 1915. It was war time and anything was game in the murky waters between Germany and her enemies. The Titanic had sunk just three years earlier almost to the week, but nothing could have quite prepared this expedition for what was to come. In what took the Titanic four hours to sink, the Lusitania disappeared in a mere 18 minutes.
I was reading a fictional narrative based on the Lusitania and a passage caught my attention. The captain stepped in front of the passengers after an evening show and assured them there was nothing to worry about but in the same breath asked the gentleman to refrain from smoking on the outside decks due to blackout rules. He also ordered the entire crew to cover all the windows on the ship with black curtains so not a single light could be seen.
Why, you might ask?
Because even the smallest of lights would give them away to enemy ships. The captain knew a submarine could see a tiny flicker amidst the dark. It was the ultimate game of hide and seek, mixed with torpedoes, tricky navigation and no winners.
In a tragedy that should never have happened, the Lusitania lost the game of chance that day as nearly 1,191 lost their lives. The ship was on the last leg of its journey and never made it home. I think about that ship and the people on it and I can’t help but go back to what I read about the light. It may have been a fictional account of what could have happened, but it teaches us that the smallest shred of hope can illuminate the darkest of situations. If one flicker of a lighter can give away an entire ship, think about what a fully illuminated light can do or a string of lights together.
Jesus calls each one of us to be that light. He says, “You are the light of the world, like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). You are like an ember on a ship at night that cannot be ignored. Yes, a single light in this world can make a difference.
Do you?
The captain gave those orders so they would not give themselves away to the Germans and I think perhaps too many of us are living with that same mentality today. Christians often function in blackout mode, covering up all traces of light so as not to alert the enemy.  We try to avoid a torpedo of attacks from Satan and the world, but what we do instead is create a very dark and nonexistent wake. The Lusitania, if covered completely, would show no signs of even being in the water.  I wonder if that is too often how we live our lives—as if we aren’t even in the game. We desperately need the light. We desperately need your light. I’m sure the Lusitania and the Titanic would testify that, “a ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is for” (John A. Shedd). Quiet Christianity is non-confrontational, but that’s not what God’s love is for.
A wealthy and notorious passenger by the name of Alfred G. Vanderbilt was among the passengers that lost his life. He gave up his own life jacket and only chance to live to a mother and her baby minutes before the ship sank. Several people who survived noted his brave actions and legacy in those final moments and made sure they let the world know Vanderbilt let his light shine. When his eighteen minutes came, he was a blessing in a time of desperate need. The most ironic part about his story is that a couple years earlier Alfred Vanderbilt made a last minute decision not to sail on the RMS Titanic. It was so last minute that early reports indicated he had died on the Titanic as he was supposed to have been aboard. What a story—Alfred had learned firsthand about the gift of life only to give it freely to someone else when the choice was presented. He would not escape a fate of sinking, but he got to choose to be a blessing.
Be encouraged to let your light shine, even in enemy territory. What if we all prayed to be a blessing to someone else? What if our actions illuminated the world? What if the tiniest of flickers set the world on fire? When your eighteen minutes or four hours or moment comes, don’t blackout…SHINE!
-Only Hope

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