Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Last Message from El Faro

On Thursday, October 1, Danielle Randolph, a crew member of the American container ship El Faro sent a message to her mother: "Not sure if you're following the weather at all, but there is a hurricane out here and we are heading straight into it. Winds are super bad and seas are not great. Love to everyone."

Shortly after, the 790-ft. cargo ship radioed it had lost power, then disappeared in Hurricane Joaquin -- a category 4 storm -- the kind you don't want to head into aboard a top-heavy cargo ship. After several days all Coast Guard searchers found was an oil slick, a life ring, and part of a battered lifeboat, along with one dead body in a survival suit. After a fruitless week, the Coast Guard called off its search for survivors.

I imagine over the centuries many ships were lost in hurricanes that way. They headed out from port having no clue that a monster storm was heading their way. But the El Faro captain and crew had weather satellites and hurricane hunters who fly airplanes into storms. What could have made them ignore the threat and leave port, especially when forecasts of the storm's track were all over the place, and none of the experts had a certainty where it was heading?

But waiting it out in port is tough -- for sailors -- and for you and me. Our teenage years are some of the worst for having to sit back and wait while our selfish desires for instant pleasure blaze away inside. And then going off to college is another dangerous time. That newfound freedom tempts us to throw caution to the wind and indulge in some reckless behavior and questionable decision-making.

My brothers and I hit those ages with our parents' warnings ringing in our ears. But often we had to test the waters for ourselves rather than take their word for it. Some of our friends made decisions that have affected their lives negatively ever since. A few aren't here anymore.

Now I'm older and wiser ... supposedly. Time and experience have taught me patience and the value of self-control. But there are still times I don't heed the warning signs. There are times I take risky chances I shouldn't. Our impatience and hunger for instant gratification can get us into deep trouble when we ignore the storm warnings God gives us.

I'm thinking of the Ten Commandments. Each one shines a bright spotlight on a dangerous threat to our eternal salvation. They warn us about desires and decisions that can shipwreck our faith. But sometimes those teachings seem so archaic, so distant, so irrelevant. Sometimes I just get an itch to set out from the dock and feel the exhilaration of the wind and the waves.

That's why Proverbs is one of my favorite books in the Old Testament. From chapter one on, God repeatedly calls me "My son," then goes on to clearly spell out the deadly perils that go with blindly following our desires, even as He vividly unfolds the rich quality of life that is ours when we trust His loving wisdom and follow His course for our lives. When I read it, the Holy Spirit puts my life back into perspective, and restores my appreciation for the great life our Father has given me here on earth, and the glorious, thrilling future that waits for us with Him in heaven.

Waiting for God's timing in life is tough, but it's always worth the wait.

Which Bible books or passages do you find most helpful for avoiding the deadly storms of temptation?

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