The Man In The Water

Posted: October 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay one’s life down for one’s friends.”

John 15:13,14

Two days ago Lynn and I pulled into Mattoon, Illinois, a classic rural mid western town, big enough for a Cracker Barrel and a Denny’s, small enough for not much else. Corn fields and I 57 defined its borders. We parked and went into the Honey Bee Diner for breakfast, a great choice for big appetites and friendly people. The town wears the strain of hard times, people are older, the population shrinking. “So this is Mattoon”, I thought.

On January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into a bridge spanning the Potomac River. Its wreckage slid into the ice choked water. Only the tail section remained afloat, six survivors clung to jagged edges. Crowds gathered, cameramen videoed, a nation watched a rescue unfold. A helicopter dropped flotation jackets, then a rope ladder. A man grabbed the life jackets and passed them on. He then grabbed the rope and passed it on. The routine repeated itself until all but one person was safe, the selfless man in the water. The helicopter went back to rescue him but he was gone, drowned. That man was Arland D. Williams, age 46, father of two, born and raised in Mattoon, Illinois.

“So the man in the water had his own natural powers. He could not make ice storms, or freeze the water until it froze the blood. But he could hand life over to a stranger, and that is a power of nature too. The man in the water pitted himself against an implacable, impersonal enemy; he fought it with charity; and he held it to a standoff. He was the best we can do.”

New York Times

Arland chose, he acted. The world marveled at his selfless courage. They saw a spark of the divine that everyone craves but few experience. “Love the Lord with all your heart, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31 Who is your neighbor? Do you choose to love the men, women, and children in your life sphere? Are you choosing to share life? Are you presenting the message of the gospel that gives life in words and deeds? God chooses ordinary people. God chose you, he chose me; we are the messengers.

“The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice. I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”

Ezekiel 22:29,30

Who will stand in the gap? Heavenly opportunities avail themselves everyday. The extraordinary is born out of the ordinary. No one knew the man in the water, yet Arland Williams saved five lives. Today we must choose how to conduct our lives. I choose to serve the Great God and I choose to love my neighbor as myself. In the end, Christ is all that matters.

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