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Why Titanic’s Lifeboats Had Empty Seats

By June 17, 2015 No Comments

April 14, 1912—The mammoth ship Titanic slices through the North Atlantic ocean with impressive speed, crossing from relatively temperate waters into the icy and dangerous Labrador current.  Passengers are not concerned, though.  These trans-continental trips have become routine, and the Titanic is famously rumored to be unsinkable.

Then, at 11:40PM, disaster.  Titanic collides with an iceberg that rips through six of her fourteen water-tight compartments and causes substantial enough damage to spell her doom.  About an hour after the collision, the decision is made to begin loading lifeboats.  The plan is to evacuate women and children first.

Tragically, there aren’t enough lifeboats for all the Titanic passengers.  In fact, the ship’s twenty lifeboats only have room for half of the individuals on board.  And that is bad enough.  But the peculiar thing is that many of the lifeboats launch with many empty seats.  In fact, by some estimates after the fact, less than 800 passengers use the lifeboats, even though there is adequate capacity for well over 1,100.

The massive Titanic sinks at 2:20AM Monday, April 15th.

The question for today: why the three hundred empty seats on the lifeboats?  First of all, it’s clear that not everyone had a chance to secure a seat on a lifeboat.  Women and children were loaded first on one side, with men only getting seats if no other women or children were ready to be loaded.  On the other side, no men were allowed regardless.

But it is clear that some did have a chance to be on a lifeboat and said no.  Why?  Some believe, as do I, that for many, the ship’s “unsinkable” reputation was responsible.  Some looked over the rail of the boat into the icy darkness, seeing nothing and no one there to rescue them and felt that the Titanic was a safer place to be.

The majority of passengers, after all, were still on the ship.  Why be in the minority?  Why be one of the small group of people out there braving the icy, choppy, dangerous ocean waves?  Why not stay with the majority of the passengers on the larger ship?

I’ll tell you why.  Because the ship was sinking.

Lately I’ve been struggling with the feeling that America is sinking.  Alexis De Tocqueville said that “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”  He was spot on.  As a culture, we’re in the big middle of ceasing to be good… in many ways.

Now it’s not the Titanic that’s sinking.  It’s the majority—the “unsinkable” majority.  It’s that undefined group that moralizes, litigates and legislates by virtue of its sheer size.  Because of it’s mammoth dimensions, many think it can’t sink.  They’re wrong.  It’s sinking underneath our feet right now.

And you and I have a very difficult decision to make.  The lifeboats are available to us.  They represent a new life… one that is characterized by being in the minority.  It doesn’t look as stable or steady as life with the crowd, and in some ways, it may seem more dangerous.  But make no mistake—the ship is sinking.

Getting into that lifeboat marked “minority” may mean your future looks a little less assured, it may mean someone might call you an unpleasant name or make you the butt of an embarrassing joke.  You could be accused of hatred, discrimination, or backwardness.  You might be seen as a trouble-maker, a non-conformist, or an impediment to progress.  But the ship is sinking.  And getting off the ship is more important than being liked and loved.

And, lest you think I’m being flippant about such a terrible event as the sinking of the Titanic to compare it to our current cultural situation, you should know that I deeply grieve the fact that our country is slipping away from the principles that guided it’s construction.  My heart aches when I see our national culture get farther away from God each year.  But that is why I refuse to stay on the ship.

I’ve made up my mind.  I want to be a lifeboat person.  I’m willing to let life be choppy for a little while if it means I don’t have to go down with the ship.  Perhaps that is what Joshua was trying to say when he remarked:

Joshua 24:15a,c (NLT)

15 But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve.

But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”

The ship is sinking.  Let’s make the tough call and man the lifeboats.  It’s time.

profilepic Hi, my name is Jonathan Hoover and I have the privilege of serving NewSpring Church as Associate Pastor and Couples pastor.  One of my greatest passions in life is coaching struggling married couples, which led me in 2013 to release my first book “The Blindfolded Marriage.”  Here, at lifeinacrazyworld.com I blog about relationships, life challenges, and personal growth.  I’m glad you’ve come to visit my site.  If you liked what you read here, sign up to receive blog posts via email here.

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The Blindfolded Marriage will help you understand the root issues that create difficulty and conflict in your marriage. Full of practical insight you can start using right away, Jonathan's book will both equip and inspire you to take your relationship to the next level.

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott | Authors of The Good Fight

This book will give you clarity in marriage that will be an impetus and help drive the desire to be healthier as husband and wife. ...Read this book, I promise you will recommend it to your friends.

Johnny M. Hunt | Former President, Southern Baptist Convention Pastor, First Baptist Church Woodstock, GA

Jonathan's insights into marital breakdowns and marital repair are both profound AND easily understood. To take such difficult issues and put them into accessible stories and metaphors that speak to both genders makes this book a rarity among marriage books. Whether your marriage is good and you want to make it better, or if it feels like the wheels came off about 5 miles ago, this book will help everyone along that spectrum.

Anita Renfroe | Speaker, Author

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If you are looking for real-life and grounded help for navigating the inevitable conflicts we all have in marriage, don’t miss out on the message of this book by Jonathan Hoover. It’s vulnerable, poignant and practical. Do yourself – and your relationship – a favor and read this book!

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott Authors of Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts