Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Journey on the Titanic

Picture this. You are 18 years old and sailing with your baby son, from England to America, where your husband is waiting to start a new life. A few days into the voyage, the ship hits an ice berg and suddenly everyone is scrambling for the few lifeboats available. Being a poor immigrant, you have a third-class ticket—low on the priority list when it comes time for lifeboat assignment. When you finally find your way to a boat, a crew member snatched your child from your arms, hands him to a woman on the lifeboat about to lower, and tells you to wait for another one. In agony, you watch your baby sail away with a stranger, wondering when and if you’ll be together again. Worst yet, will you ever escape the sinking ship? After a freezing, heartbreaking night, watching hundreds of your fellow passengers, parish before your eyes, you are finally reunited with your son. How would you deal with the trauma and the memories forever engraved into your young mind? What kind of person would your husband find when you finally reached America? How would that temporary but excruciating separation affect your relationship with your son? How much of this story would you tell him once he grew up? How would this experience shape your faith, or the view of God that you pass on to your children? Would you ever find the courage to travel by ship again?

The day after Thanksgiving my parents took my sons and me to a Titanic exhibit in San Francisco. In addition to artifacts taken from the wreckage, replicas of areas like the Grand Staircase and both a first and a third-class room, and a real ice berg that we could touch, they had a piece of the ship. It didn’t matter that I’d seen countless documentaries, movies, and T.V. specials about this famous shipwreck, the up-close-and-personal view made the event more real than ever before.

In order to bring the story closer to home, we were all given a boarding pass with the name and mini bio of an actual passenger. At the end of the tour we found out if our passenger lived or died. I received a card with the name of 18-year-old Leah Ake Rosen. Halfway through the tour I found Leah’s story of being separated from her baby. Something about holding that card in my hand erased any romantic images left over from scenes starring Kate and Leonardo, accompanied by Celine Dion. I can’t imagine being 18, already a married woman, traveling alone with an infant to a strange country. And then to live through such a horrifying experience! How would I have handled it?

All I could do was thank God that I didn’t have to—that He ordained Leah Rosen’s life for her and my life for me. I thank Him that, though I’ve had difficulties, I know very little about tragedy.

Think of a time when you felt like you were walking in someone else’s shoes for a short time—perhaps through a museum exhibit, a book, a movie, or a real-life experience. What did it teach you about yourself, God, or human nature? How did the experience deepen your appreciation for the life journey that God mapped out for you? How might your life be different if you had been born in a different time period, country, or family situation?

Psalm 139:16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Take a moment to thank God for loving you enough to plan your life long before your creation, for knowing exactly what you needed to experience or not experience in order to fulfill His purpose.

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