“Don’t blink… a hundred years goes faster than you think, so don’t blink”. So goes the country song by Kenny Chesney. For most us the sinking of the Titanic seems like ancient folklore, but to the handful of people left on the planet who are old enough to remember the news of it happening, I’m sure they can hardly take in the fact that it was a century ago.
Even harder, at times, to take in are the circumstances under which our own lives can be sunk by the combination of unforeseen obstacles and personal decisions (often well meaning) that comprise our lives. “Things don’t always goes as we plan” is a glib saying until our lives are gashed by the unseen icebergs along our journey, and then such a given of existence become anything but glib– a spiritual challenge to find a way to grapple with reality in a way that transforms us or capsizes us.
I am struck by the stories I hear about the fact that it was a perfect storm. The “unsinkable ship” went down when the captain had to make a split-second decision, which, according to the stories turned out to be the worst decision possible. It is said that if the captain had not reversed the engines but only steered the ship at full power he could have dodged the iceberg, or even that ramming the iceberg head on, while devastating, would not have sunk the ship. If you have lived long enough, you can probably evaluate certain decisions in your own life where, in hindsight, almost any decision would have been better.
What to do if you feel that way? Luckily, if you’re still breathing, no life is “sunk” in a final way until we give in to the idea that our life is a tragedy. In fact, one of the beautiful realities of life is that responding to” tragedy” with grace and love transforms any circumstance into a story of redemption. The writer Peter Kreeft went so far as to say “there is no tragedy in life except that of not becoming a saint”. Seeing life this way opens our eyes to the possibilities of love because our ability to choose love is never dictated by our circumstances, rather our circumstances are always exposing and challenging the depth and scope of what we mean by “love”.