Billed as the world’s first unsinkable ship, passengers clamored to be among the first to sail aboard the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage between Southampton, England and New York City in the spring of 1912. Shipbuilders, engineers and financiers were confident in the ship’s design and workmanship— trumpeting both its seaworthiness and technical ingenuity. That confidence was quickly dispelled on a frigid night in April of that same year.
I recently visited the Titanic Artifact exhibit featured in our local museum of science and history. It was a fascinating experience. A variety of items rescued from the wreckage were on display. The effect of 73 years of exposure to salt water two miles beneath the sea had corroded most of the ship’s structure and mechanics. Included in the exhibit were sections of the rusty hull, pieces of the railing, and various bits of the engine room contents. All have been subject to a tremendous amount of pressure at this depth, about 6,000 pounds per inch. It’s surprising to me that anything remains. Each item tells a piece of the story. The surprise ending of the ship’s maiden voyage is revealed in each bit of the wreckage retrieved.
There were other items recovered as well, those of a more personal nature. A pair of fragile spectacles and their leather case was found in pristine condition. Diaries and books, golf shoes, buttons from a tuxedo jacket, and a ladies hat, all damaged but survivors of the chaos. Many of these items could be attributed to specific passengers and provides a peek into the lives of those who shared this tragic trip. Sobering to see, encased in climate-controlled cases under glass. They are everyday articles with little value—unless they are silent witnesses to an historic event, such as this.
There were accounts of passengers who attempted to board the lifeboats with many of their personal items in tow: baggage, photographs and other precious possessions. Women arrived at the rescue scene wearing full-length fur coats that would have quickly become drenched, a certain death trap. Many refused to give up their belongings and were denied boarding the small emergency crafts—consigned to the sea.
Other passengers left all behind in search of the precious spots in one of the few lifeboats on the great ship.
In the face of impending death, how could anyone choose to walk away from life for a handful of things?
It made me think of our own voyage to rescue—redemption in Jesus. It’s not always easy to leave behind the old life, abandoning its baggage, allowing the stuff that weighs us down to fall away like so much lint and dust. It’s tempting to gather up items to drag along—those that are familiar, that bring us comfort or have perceived value. They will impede our escape to new life in Christ—they must be left behind. If not, they will delay our growth and maturity and can sometimes sink our spiritual ship altogether.
Some come in the form of habits, or perhaps old friends or activities. They had value to us in our life before Christ, but they can handicap our new life in Him. It’s painful to walk away and yet it’s exactly the path to full freedom.
Paul understood the importance of setting himself apart from those trappings. “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” Phil 3:8 (NKJV).
Discarding the rubbish in order to gain Christ seems like a good trade. In the moment, however, our things may not seem like rubbish at all. And therein lies the challenge. We deceive ourselves into thinking we can keep both. We may even be hopeful that the connections to the former life are the personal mission field to which we are called. It allows us to keep one foot in the lifeboat and the other on the deck of the sinking ship.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; who can know it?” Joshua 17:9 (NKJV).
We will always follow our heart; our path is directed by it. The apostle Paul set his heart on Christ above all things. How aboutyou? Or is your affection divided, like the woman with the fur coat who desires life but can’t leave the old things behind?
The 1997 movie version of the story of the Titanic featured a Celine Dion song, the theme music entitled, “My Heart Will Go On.” It’s a beautiful song and an accurate statement. The heart will always go on.
Where will your heart lead you? It’s a titanic choice.