If you are like me, you have been following with interest the Carnival Cruise Ship breakdown in the Gulf of Mexico where 4,000 vacationers have been stuck on a disabled ship with backed up bathrooms, no food, sickness, and oppressive heat. People who thought they were going to enjoy a great vacation on a floating hotel with endless buffet spreads, ice sculptures, gambling, drinking, and Vegas-style shows had their plans completely destroyed as a fire broke out in the engine room early Sunday morning leaving the ship basically lost at sea. Reports have been coming in of urine soaked hallways, almost no food, and people in misery. Now, after being pulled into port in Mobile, Alabama by a tug boat going 4-5 mph, one of the busses taking them to New Orleans to spend the night broke down. The nightmare just kept going.
Fortunately, Carnival Cruise lines is offering a reimbursement of the costs of the cruise, a 15% discount on their next cruise with Carnival (oh, really?), and a whopping $500 in cash for their trouble. I think that along with loved ones waiting to pick up the weary travelers, there were probably a host of lawyers ready to give their own version of aid, for a small fee, of course.
All of this got me thinking about how fragile our Fantasy Island/Love Boat existence in America is. We think that things will just keep chugging on toward the destination that we have charted out and we work for life to be as fun and simple as a cruise. A sense of entitlement grows and we have the expectation that we will be taken care of and happy and things will generally go our way. When they don't, we get frustrated, depressed, and wonder what is wrong. But, life is not like a Carnival Cruise ship. The reality is a whole lot more like that broken vessel that was pulled into port by a tug boat reeking of urine and sewage. Oh, great! I'm being all cheery today! But, it really is true. Real life is full of engine fires and things not working out. We use our wealth and power to try and insulate ourselves from it, but it never works. At some point, our best attempts break down and we are left waiting and wondering what comes next.
I think about what happened during Hurricane Katrina when I saw families coming into the shelter that we started with all of their belongings in a paper bag. I think about the families that we met when my son had cancer as they saw their own children taken by a vicious disease. I think about people that I have known who have been abused or who have seen their spouses leave them for no reason or who have lost jobs that they have poured their heart and soul into through no fault of their own. You are floating along and things are going well and then you hit an iceberg and it is every man for himself as the ship goes down. Nothing in life is guaranteed.
The Carnival Cruise Fiasco story is interesting for us on land and was a nightmare for those on the ship. While we have good days and there is much to enjoy and celebrate in life, the reality is that the Carnival fiasco is a metaphor for the unexpected tragedies that we face in life. These things will come. How will you handle them? Will you panic and give in to fear? Will you think that you don't deserve bad things to happen to you? In a world racked with sin and death, we have a Savior who has entered in to rescue and provide hope. We must cling to Christ and represent Him, even in the midst of tragedy. I hope that everyone who went through this past week is okay, but I also recognize that people all over the world right now are going through their own tragedies. Fortunately, God sees and knows and gives strength and comfort when we cling to Him. Grace is always available, even in the midst of disaster.