When the Lights Go Out

dark-1850684_1920It was Friday night, we’d gone out for dinner, and barely made it back into the garage before the downpour.

When the power went off, I was writing at my computer and my wife was reading an e-book on her tablet. The plan was to watch a movie a little later, but there we were with no electricity, no lights, no internet, and no television.

“What do we do now,” she asked.Lantern

I reached into the desk drawer for the flashlight that doubles as a cell phone power source, plugged in my phone, and turned on the mobile hotspot so we could maintain internet connection. Then I walked over to the kitchen pantry where we keep two battery-operated camping lanterns, pulled one out, and placed it on the kitchen counter, where its light sprayed throughout the kitchen, dining room, and living room. Not a lot, but enough.

For the next hour, rain poured from the sky as if God had picked up the Atlantic Ocean and was dumping it on us. Linda took the lantern over to the couch to read; my laptop had plenty of charge for me to finish the work I was doing.

Although the rest of the house was dark, and the temperature grew warmer because the air conditioner was off, we didn’t have a crisis when the lights went out. During the previous weekend, we had checked the batteries in those emergency lamps and charged my mobile power back-up. Because we were ready, there was no emergency when the storm caused a blackout. We didn’t panic, and there wasn’t a crisis.

The same can be true if something terrible happens and life itself comes to an end. If we’ve taken time to prepare in advance, even death isn’t a crisis, and we don’t have to panic.

In Philippians 1:21 the Apostle writes, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” That doesn’t sound like a man who is afraid of the dark or of death. He was prepared for whatever might happen.The Man Who Knew Too Much

Job is another who had a deep confidence when facing the storms of life. Despite all the pain and ugliness that he faced, he still declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

When the lights finally came back on, we watched an old Alfred Hitchcock movie starring James Stewart and Doris Day. It was a lovely evening—despite the storm raging on the outside.

 

Lightning

The Finest Hours

The Finest HoursLast Night, my wife and I went to the local theater to see The Finest Hours. One of the greatest Coast Guard rescue attempts in history. Watching the film, we both wondered if the rescue team would get there in time, or if the men on the sinking oil tanker died. Wondered if the guys on the rescue boat came back alive, or did they drown in the sea.

I was in the Army for 24 years. My dad and brother were career Navy guys. All three of my sons are in the military (Army & Navy). So I have an appreciation for those who serve in all branches of the Armed Forces. I understand the dangers they face, and their willingness to risk their lives for their country. But on a more personal note, their willingness to risk their lives for people day in and day out – not only during war, but many other dangerous circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in.

I like watching films about the risks people take to help others. I appreciate the men and women in our police and fire departments, ambulance drivers and EMTs, and others who face danger in order to save others.

Watching this film made me proud of the people in the U.S. Coast Guard.

If you haven’t yet seen it yet, but you plan to watch it, STOP READING RIGHT NOW. Because I want to comment on a deeply significant aspect of the story.

 SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT.

 OK. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

IF YOU’RE STILL READING, DON’T BLAME ME.





In order for the rescue to even happen, there were at least three independent bold decisions that had to be made. Maybe more.

The first was made by Mr. Sybert on the damaged, about-to-sink tanker. Suddenly finding himself to be the ranking crew member, he made a gutsy decision and destroyed the life boat the other men were about to climb into. They hated him for that, but he knew the roiling sea would destroy that lifeboat and that the men would drown long before the rescue effort arrived

The next daring decision was made by Warrant Officer Cluff, the guy in charge of the Chatham Coast Guard Station. When nobody thought it even possible for the mission to succeed, he ordered his crew to go out in the worst storm on record, find the sinking ship, and come home with the survivors. His own crew and all the townspeople thought he was a fool.

Finest Hours 2

And the third was by Webber himself, the Coastguardsman who led the rescue operation. The odds and the storm were against him. The raging waves nearly destroyed the boat. His mates urged him to turn around. But he made the bold decision to keep going.

You’ll have to watch the movie, read the book, or search online to see how it ended. But what fascinates me is our interconnectedness as human beings. Three men made decisions that directly impacted the others. If any one of the three had acted differently, there would be no rescue, no hero, no story. Nobody would have blamed them for taking the safer course of action. Nobody would say they were wrong if they played it safe.

But thirty-two more men would have died. Thirty-two more families devastated by loss. And those three men would have lived out the remainder of their lives wondering what if.