For those who have flown in a passenger jet you have no doubt heard the stewardess say; “in the unlikely event of a water landing” and then she goes on to describe the emergency procedures. We are often either distracted or disinterested and miss the explanation.
Now imagine for a few moments that you are on a transatlantic flight. Suddenly the plane loses power and without warning it drops from the sky and plunges into the frigid water of the North Atlantic. The plane has come apart. You and others are bobbing in the waters still strapped in your seat. Your injuries appear to be minor. Under the moonlit sky the water appears to be an eerie purple. Everyone around you is in immediate danger of drowning.
People all around you are screaming in panic. They are wishing now they would have listened to the critically important instructions that you as the lead stewardess gave them after they had boarded the plane and were getting seated. Although you were attempting to give lifesaving instructions then, the people were too caught up in their everyday affairs to listen to you.
After stowing their luggage, everyone seemed to have that one important phone call to squeeze in or that one last text message to send before they were instructed to turn their phone off. Perhaps their distraction came from something as insignificant as turning on their favorite iPad music and putting their earbuds in as you were speaking. Whatever their distraction might have been, they now need that information that you tried so hard to deliver. They are all drowning in a sea of purple.
Your training has paid off. Your time in simulated crashes has prepared you for this event. You have rehearsed this situation so many times. You calmly release yourself from your seat. You locate your life jacket. You locate the floatation device that was designed to have also been the safety slide floating near you. Your mind races through the many mistakes that you had made during training and you know that you must get things correct this time. This is real life. Knowing the importance of this situation you react flawlessly. You grab the float before it drifts away in the current and you begin instructing others before it is too late and you guide them to safety. You comfort those in tears and assure them that the location beacons will guide rescuers to your exact location. Soon a ship arrives on the scene. Thankfully most were saved. Only those who would not listen to you lost their lives on this dreadful night.
Okay now back to reality. I want to draw your attention to the fact that in my fictional account you, as the stewardess, drew from the experience that you learned by making mistakes in your simulated training to guide others to safety.
Let me try to tie this story to what we are called to do as Christians. Last week’s 4thdayletter called “After Contrition, Then What” touches on this important point as well.
When I give a talk or retreat I ask the attendees if they have recurring sin in their life. Almost every hand in the audience goes up. Later I ask them to write down on a small piece of purple paper provided to them exactly what the recurring sin in their life is. I ask them to fold this up and put it in their pocket.
The difficult question comes when I ask the attendees if anyone else in the world other than them knows what is written on that purple paper. I draw their attention to the fact that everyone in the room has one of these purple papers and almost all of us are afraid to tell someone what our recurring sin is.
Pride and shame keep us too scared to share our broken condition. As a result we wear a mask to hide our sin from others and act as if all is well in our life. After they have all focused on their own purple paper and ask those gathered to look around the entire room, I point out to them that they are sitting in a virtual SEA OF PURPLE. Everyone present has some secret sin hidden away in their pocket.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 we see these words: “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The stewardess in the imaginary story above drew from her past training mistakes to lead others to safety. Had she never made a mistake in training, she might have made life impacting mistakes in this critical situation and many more lives may have been lost.
Paul was ready to boast of his mistakes to draw others to Christ and His saving power. Take time to realize today that you and everyone around you have a purple paper in their pocket. Everyone has their own hidden brokenness.
With the strength of Christ we can become vulnerable and admit our own mistakes and by doing so we may become the life jacket that saves someone from drowning in this sea of purple. We must draw from our past mistakes and Jesus’ loving and merciful response towards us and in turn boast of this to others. We will be like the stewardess guiding others to safety.
Lord, I know I am a sinner and I know you have treated my sinfulness with mercy and forgiveness. Give me the strength and courage to share my story with others so that they too can encounter your love, amen.