Gail's Book Nook

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Looking in the Window: Food for Thought

My dictionary defines a miracle as “an event or action that apparently contradicts known scientific laws” and “a remarkable thing.” However, most people associate a miracle with an act of God, so I was surprised when I saw the words “Miracle On The Hudson” on television, describing the U.S. Airways jetliner that ditched this month in the New York river. Sadly, our country endured a spiritual drought about ten years ago, making it taboo to be a Christian. Even though Christians have reclaimed some of their right to say they believe in God without being chastised, other than evangelists and ministers the media who are under more scrutiny and more likely to be attacked for such professions of faith, lag behind the general public. This is the first time in recent years I can recall seeing the word “miracle” on the news, most likely because of its religious connotation.

Some meanings of spiritual are “of the spirit or the soul,” “of religion,” and “not corporeal,” which draws one’s thoughts even closer to a higher power. So, I was shocked when I heard a television commentator say that he didn’t see how anyone could look at what happened on the Hudson River in New York without feeling spiritual about it. Because our country has become a secular society controlled by an even more worldly media that so often denounces Christianity, I was happy to find that some, even though immersed in the glitzy realm of nightly stardom, apparently stood so in awe of the event that they could not in good conscience fail to mention that these people must have had help from above.

I agree. It’s a miracle. The reports I heard told of acts deviating from the norm from the moment a flock of birds hit and disabled both engines. A reporter spoke of how skilled the pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 had to be to clear a building, not only putting the plane down in the water, but also doing it in a way that kept it from cracking. We’ve come to learn that he is an airline safety expert as well as a seasoned pilot. But without aid once the Airbus A320 was down, many in the freezing water probably couldn’t have survived. Some say that lessons learned since 9/ll benefited these victims. Seeing the plane adrift one of the first responders said he didn’t even need a call to tell him of the emergency. In addition, by the time he arrived to take the survivors into a warm cabin, preventing hypothermia, other first responders and the coast guard were there to do the same.

Describing the rescue, reporters used the word “extraordinary.” One passenger talking about the scene on the craft told of people who were stunned and frightened still finding a way to escape in the chaos of such a horrible tragedy. The fact that all got off is a great tribute to the way the crew handled the situation. Also, some find it amazing that the airplane floated long enough to allow those aboard to flee to safety. They want to study the jetliner to see why. So, was the “miracle” the result of expertise and years of training? The survivor reporting said before the plane went down many of those aboard had said prayers. Had God heard them and answered?

When we or the media speak of the incident, even though we are willing to use the words “miracle” and “spiritual” no one has said “Praise the Lord” or “Thank you Lord, for saving these people.” Is it a blessing that God gave the pilot and crew the opportunity to develop the skill and knowledge to handle such a tragedy? Is it coincidence or God’s hand that gave those deplaning the presence of mind to do it? Several times since the happening I’ve been in the midst of people amazed by the phenomenon that allowed so many to avert a deadly catastrophe, giving glory to the pilot, the crew, the responders, and the survivors. All of us, myself included, admire the pilot and crew for their courage, their knowledge, and the efficiency with which they performed their jobs, providing safety for those under their watch. However, a thought in the back of my mind keeps nagging me. Is it strange that we aren’t thanking God for taking care of all of those involved, including the crew and the passengers? I’m sorry to say I didn’t mention God’s greatness or his part in the “miracle” to anyone until I spoke with a young woman currently studying the books of the Old Testament.
When I asked her if she’d noticed that people were falling short of praising God for the “miracle,” she said, “Yes, I have. I can just imagine how the entire episode would be recorded in the Bible. It would read something like, ‘the people were in grave danger, and they prayed and cried out to me for help. And, I heard their pleas. I caused the pilot to miss the building and land the plane without cracking it. Then, I sent the first responders to save the people from the freezing water. And, I made them get off the plane without harming one another. I gave some of the passengers the presence of mind to help others who needed it. And still, the world has not praised me. They have not acknowledged my deeds.’”

Isaiah 43: 10 - 13 - “You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed--I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”