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Moral Injury

Windows Of Opportunity

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Windows Of Opportunity

On the evening of April 14, 1912, the largest ship in the world, the Titanic, struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and began taking on huge amounts of water. Officers aboard the Titanic immediately sent out radio distress signals. Then it began sending up distress flares.   

Only about six to ten miles away, and visible to the sinking Titanic, was the ship, the California. The crew of the California saw the distress flares but interpreted them as celebratory. The ship’s crew had turned off its radio, so the Titanic’s radio distress call went unheeded. Even when the California’s crew noticed the Titanic “sitting queerly in the water, as if listing” they made no effort to contact the doomed ship. 

One ship did get the message, the Carpathia. But the Carpathia was 56 miles away. Although it responded immediately to the Titanic’s distress calls, it arrived only after the Titanic plunged 12,000 feet to the bottom of the icy Atlantic taking 1,522 of its crew and passengers to their deaths. The Carpathia had managed to save only 705 of the Titanic’s 2,200 passengers. 

The next day, after the California heard what had happened, it radioed to the Carpathia, asking if they could possibly help. “No, nothing more can be done!” was the answer. The California had a small window of opportunity to help save more than 1,000 lives – a window that would only stand open for a short time. But it failed to respond, and the window slammed shut forever. 

Not all of life’s tasks are routine. Not all are “do it anytime” opportunities. Many opportunities to do good last only for a moment.  Consider the story of Mary’s anointing of the body of Jesus in John 12:1-8. Out of her love and devotion to Jesus, Mary emptied an entire bottle of extremely expensive perfume over the head and body of Jesus. One of the apostles, Judas, openly criticized this wasting of a resource on one person when it might have benefited many – in particular, the poor. But Jesus defended Mary and explained that she had taken opportunity to do a once-in-eternity deed – to anoint His body for burial.   

All the Gospel accounts demonstrate that after His Crucifixion the body of our Lord was rushed into a cold stone tomb and heavily guarded. After His Resurrection the anointing of Jesus’ body was no longer necessary. Mary did something for the Lord when it really counted and when He thirsted for the love of His disciples the most. The disciples erred because they wanted to choose a routine and recurring task over a once-in-eternity task.   

Aren’t we often guilty of doing the same? Precious moments with our children are passed over that we might get one more task accomplished at work. And when we return the next day, ten other tasks have taken its place. What fool would pass up the opportunity to be at his son’s birth so he might watch a routine ball game on TV. That’s the equivalent to what the disciples wanted to do. May God give us wisdom this day to take advantage of those critical opportunities to do good, opportunities that have a very short lifespan! “Be wise in the way you act … make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5). 


PRAYER: Dear Father in Heaven, please give me wisdom to get my priorities straight and open my eyes to the fading opportunities around me to help others and to save lives. Amen. 

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