Early on the morning of February 2, 1943, a luxury liner (converted into an Army transport ship) named The Dorchester was carrying 902 service men. The vessel was about 150 miles from an American base in Greenland when a torpedo from a German submarine struck it. In less than 20 minutes, the Dorchester sank beneath the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Tragically, 672 men died that day leaving only 230 survivors.
Four of the men who lost their lives that horrible night were chaplains. Those Army chaplains were Lt. George Fox, Lt. Alex Goode, Lt. John Washington and Lt. Clark Poling. Each of these four men willingly sacrificed his life for others.
When the torpedo hit, many were immediately killed and many more were seriously wounded. Panic and chaos overwhelmed the soldiers as men scrambled to the deck searching through the smoke and darkness for lifejackets.
Amidst the turmoil, the chaplains quickly spread out among the frightened men, tending to the wounded and guiding the disoriented to safety. They offered prayers and comforted the dying.
As they reached the deck of the ship, the four men began distributing lifejackets from the storage lockers. According to witnesses, when there were no more jackets available, they removed theirs and gave them to four young men. One survivor, John Ladd, said, “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”
Survivors in the nearby rafts said they could see the chaplains with their arms linked and praying as the ship went down.
I love a good war story. Not because I love war but because stories of heroism and sacrifice inspire us. In fact, intuitively, you already know that for anything great to be accomplished, significant sacrifice almost always is required.
• Martin Luther King sacrificed his life for the cause of equal rights.
• Mother Teresa sacrificed her life for the poor.
• Nelson Mandela sacrificed his freedom, spending 27 years in prison to free his country from the grip of apartheid.
• Hundreds of thousands of soldiers have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
We recognize and honor these heroes, but we too often excuse ourselves from that kind of heroism by saying, “I’m no Mother Teresa!”
SACRIFICE IS NOT THE OTHER “S” WORD
For some, the idea of sacrificing their lives or their resources for someone else seems ludicrous. They might consider doing so for a child or maybe for a close friend, but when the torpedo hits, many people operate out of self-preservation rather than selfless sacrifice.
However, it’s imperative for you to understand that the uncommon life of a hero is one of sacrifice. In fact, a radical and extraordinary life is one in which you embrace a spiritual paradox: To get more out of life, you must give more of your life.
Jesus put it this way, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
Do you see the paradox here?
Jesus said that the path to true discipleship (and being a hero in His eyes) is a journey of self-denial, sacrifice and loss, but it’s also the only way to real life.
By nature, we think joy and satisfaction are found in gathering and hoarding. We sometimes hold on to what we have and love with a death grip. But Jesus said to hold this life loosely if we want to live securely in His hand forever.
Forever. That’s a long time and a pretty good deal for a bunch of ragtag recovering idiots like you and me.
Sacrifice matters to God, to others and to you. It matters in your marriage and in your family. In fact, it matters in all of your relationships. It’s how you become a hero. So choose well. Live well. Be well.