The UPI reported an interesting out-of-gas story. A family was enjoying a day in their airboat (AKA fan boat) on Lake Kissimmee in central Florida. Later, while towing the boat home their diesel pickup ran out of fuel.
There, stranded on the shoulder of I-75 near the town of Wildwood, they got an idea. Why not fire up the airboat which was being towed behind them and use its propeller to push them along to the next exit? So their adult son hopped onto the airboat and cranked up its motor.
It worked. The propeller generated enough force to move the pickup and trailer. It didn’t go very fast, only 10 to 15 MPH. But it was quicker than walking, and they were able to maneuver their way right up to the gas pump of the nearest filling station.
Reading this story brought several ideas to mind. For instance, it reminded me of the need to keep one’s head in a crisis so as not to lose sight of the resources and solutions around us.
But what struck me most about this story is the “role reversal” which took place. The boat which was once being towed later became the source of propulsion. In fact, all on the same day the role of “propelling” shifted back and forth between the truck and the boat. On the way to the lake, the truck took the lead. Once on the lake, the boat took the lead. On the way home the truck, again, took the lead—until it ran out of fuel. Then the boat was called upon again to do the pushing. Finally, after refueling the truck took over.
This role reversal has a human counterpart. Think of an airline crew during different phases of the flight. While taxiing to the runway, the air traffic controller and the flight attendants (in their safety brief) are giving all the instructions. Once given clearance to take off the pilots take charge.
But let’s throw in some problems. Imagine a scenario like those portrayed in the movies Zero Hour and Airplane. Many of the passengers and crew members consume a contaminated in-flight meal. As a medical crisis unfolds, a doctor on board suddenly takes on the role of leadership. Unfortunately, both pilots also consumed the same tainted meal and become incapacitated. A frantic search is made for any passenger with flight experience. Once a pilot is identified among the passengers, he or she takes on the burden of leadership. Finally, a ground-based flight instructor takes over as he or she gives guidance to the stand-in pilot from the nearest airport.
Deployment and Role-Swapping
A far more common version of role-swapping takes place among Military families. When the Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine deploys, most of the domestic roles shift to the spouse who stays behind. This can create stress on the marriage. Children may even carry some of those responsibilities. It’s far from an ideal situation, but it works—just as the airboat succeeded at pushing the truck and trailer.
Sometimes the spouse and children work so well at the role-reversal that they are hesitant to relinquish their responsibilities after the service member returns.
More common, however, is that family members are glad to return the responsibilities to the redeploying service member. In fact, there’s often anxiety on the family’s part that the returning service member will be displeased at their performance during the separation. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that all members of the family exercise tons of flexibility and appreciation. All members made their contribution to get the family through the crisis. It may not have been a pretty sight. It may not have been the ideal situation. But by banding together, sharing the burden, and appreciating each other’s contribution they survived. And during deployments, survival is success.
The same Scripture commands us, “Everyone must bear his own load” and “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, 5). Be flexible. Be willing to give and to take. Show appreciation for everyone’s contribution. And God will take you through.
Dear Father in heaven, I can be so rigid and set in my ways at times. Please help me to soften up and open up to new options. Make me willing to both pull my share of the load and share that burden with others as well. Fill me with Your wisdom, patience, and love. Amen.