In Life And Death…Give Thanks
“The boat is on fire!! Do you see it?” That is what I told my wife as we were driving over a bridge on our way to a church a fews weeks ago. All that could be seen was a small cloud of smoke billowing up from one of the sailboats anchored in the harbor. My previous experiences with boat fires are that the boat quickly becomes an inferno which may be accompanied by an explosion. I immediately cut across the other car lanes and pulled into aparking spot.
Even from a distance the smoke was getting visibly thicker and the flames growing bigger. As I was running through the backyards of the houses along the water, I saw a mom on the boat. She was screaming “My boy! HELP HELP!” The dad was bravely trying to enter the cabin of the boat but the flames were burning up towards his face. One of the houses had a dock and a woman stood at the end of it crying in disbelief as the horrific scene unfolded. She gave me a brief assessment of the situation and I dove into the water. Even though I was in shape my blue jeans were weighing me down as I tried to swim toward the boat. I felt like someone might need to rescue me. Off went my jeans as I continued to swim as hard and fast as I could. As I approached, two men in a small dingy boat were yelling to the couple “Get off the boat; it’s gonna explode!” I was able to feel the heat and smell the smoke from the flames. However, I knew the mom and dad were feeling more pain than smoke inhalation and burns can ever give. Finally, when all hope of rescuing their son was lost, we steadied the dingy to get them aboard to safety. There are no words to describe the grief audibly expressed by those parents as we sped away from their burning boat and the beloved child that was no more. There was relief knowing we saved two lives but sadness for the loss of the son who was left behind. For me this was one of the first times during a rescue or dangerous situation that I was not able to protect or rescue a child.
As youth workers we are not supermen, but we are called to be faithful. It just hurts when we train and dedicate our lives to helping parents and kids and the results end in tragedy.
Through the pain and loss of all this I know God is still in control. I cannot understand why this happened and that makes me feel like a failure. We are called as youth workers to be faithful even when is seems that our efforts are not fruitful. God’s ways are incomprehensible to us. We are called to give thanks in all situations but I am struggling to give thanks to God in the face of this family’s overwhelming tragedy. I am deeply saddened that we were unable to rescue their precious son.
According to Matthew Henry and Charles Swindoll, giving thanks is a process and a perspective. The process can be slow but begins with prayer. The perspective is mine and can be slowly transformed as God works in and through me. I have to admit my thankfulness to God.
I am thankful that a young daughter who was at church that Sunday still has a mom and dad. I am thankful a husband still has a wife and a wife still has a husband. I am thankful that they still have a daughter. I am thankful for the faithfulness of youth workers who selflessly invest themselves in the lives of students for the sake of the gospel.
Typically, most people are running from teens. However, youth workers are running towards teens, willing to experience the aflame with adolescence in hopes of saving some as Paul would say. We are called as youth workers to be faithful even when it seems we are not fruitful. Even now that my heart is saddened, I will trust in his sovereign grace.
Michael A. Liebler
President of The Youth Culture Report