Wrestling with Words and Water
by Brenda Black
As articles spew facts, forecasts, water depths and wave heights from two separate news events this past weekend, speculations and shocking responses gush forth just as furiously. Teenager Abby Sunderland was rescued amid 30 foot crashing waves from her sail boat in the Indian Ocean, while entire families were swept away by 23 foot flash floods in the Arkansas Mountains. Harsh opinions and bold defenses have surfaced for the 16 year old adventurer. Deep sympathy and numbed silence grip lonely survivors who remain to face the horror of losing a spouse or child or both instantly. Each headliner begs the question: Is any place truly safe?
I've read both cruel and compassionate feedback to these stories. I've wrestled with my own cynicism toward the one and tearful sympathy for the others. And I've had to stop and think how often we are quick to judge another's judgement.
The teen mariner, experienced beyond her years according to her boat-building father who taught her how to sail, set out to fulfill a dream. She wanted to prove something to herself and others who might notice her sea savvy grit. Her boat was equipped with high tech communication systems and the hull stocked with ample provisions. She just never counted on a 30 foot wave. Could she have anticipated it? Possibly. Could she stop it? No.
The families that ventured into the Arkansas hills for some tranquility simply set out to get away from it all and enjoy the great outdoors along a peaceful creek bank. They had nothing to prove except to teach little ones how to cook a hot dog over an open fire or catch a minnow along the water's edge. Their tents and campers were packed with paper goods, life jackets and snacks enough for the weekend. High tech gadgets like cell phones and computers were put to rest intentionally. They just never counted on needing them and they never expected the sudden rise of a trickling stream during their sleep to engulf them. Could they have anticipated it? Possibly. Could they stop it? No.
No matter how prepared or trained, the fact remains: we never know what we'll ultimately face each day. On solid ground rather than rolling waves, we can crash during a quick trip to town. Even if we heed the warnings of approaching storms and shelter ourselves in concrete bunkers, there is no guarantee we'll survive the fury of a tornado. Life is precious. Life is precarious. We should never be so presumptuous to think any one exempt from tragedy or sudden death.
That's why it is imperative that we live life ready for the waves. Not in fear or dread. But prepared. Not in gloomy doom. But in great security that no matter what unexpected force blows our way, we face it with courage and confidence. What a tremendous peace is offered to those in dire circumstances and those left to deal with the grievous loss, if they know the crashing forces in this life launch us to a fairer shore.
As I check my own quick judgement on the judgements of others, I pray that these families caught unaware and a young girl bold beyond her years know the Creator of the seas and the rivers and the rains. It is His judgement that matters, not mine. It is His will that Sunderland was spared. It is His mercy that will heal broken lives of shocked campers. It His desire that people be ready at all times in all places because we just never know if this day is our last. So live your life pursuing your dreams. Just make sure the passion you pursue brings you closer to the Lord. And spend your time where you enjoy. Just make sure that wherever you camp, you dwell near the heart of God.
“'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.'” (John 3:16-17)
May the Lord make each of us ready for what we may anticipate, but what we cannot change.
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