by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.
I suspect most of us are aware of the American cargo ship captain — Capt. Richard Phillips — who was held hostage by Somali pirates on a lifeboat in a five-day standoff. I’m writing this column only hours after hearing the good news of his rescue by US Navy SEALS, and no doubt there will be many more details published before this column is in print. But what I know now impels me to write.
“A model for all Americans” is how President Obama described the Captain’s courage. Rear Admiral Richard Gurnon, President of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy where Phillips was a graduate, said speaking of Capt. Phillips, “He was the good shepherd — he exchanged his life for the life of his crew.” And Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said, “The actions of Capt. Phillips and the civilian mariners of Maersk-Alabama were heroic. They fought back to regain control of their ship, and Capt. Phillips selflessly put his life in the hands of these armed criminals in order to protect his crew.”
The Captain’s decision to surrender himself to the pirate hijackers in an effort to safeguard his crew certainly epitomizes Jesus words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
How fitting that news of the happy resolution of his saga came on Easter morning!
Evil didn’t win the battle against Capt. Phillips, just as it didn’t against Jesus. Jesus’ wrongful crucifixion was not the end of his story. His resurrection teaches us many lessons, but among them is to never give up our hope and faith in the power of good. I feel certain that Capt. Phillips didn’t give up hope.
I can’t help but appreciate the fact that a couple of days before his rescue, the Captain tried to save his own life by leaping into the ocean. Perhaps this is also an important lesson for us all.
How many times have I feared that I wouldn’t be able to do something successfully and I didn’t even make an attempt? Or how many times did I fail at something in my first try and became so depressed, disappointed and despondent that I never tried again? I suspect that given the opportunity the Captain would have continued to try to escape.
And consider his crew. They didn’t accept defeat in their initial capture and found their way to freedom from their hijackers by making the heroic effort to regain control of their ship.
There’s something very empowering as I consider the choices made by Capt. Phillips and his crew — choices that resonate with the Psalmist’s resolute declaration, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” (Psalms 118:17)
The model of courage we have witnessed inspires us to see that we all have the ability to take actions that can result in life — in our happiness, in our satisfaction, in solutions, improvement and progress. We don’t have to be overwhelmed, oppressed or overcome by uncertainty, indecision, rejection, failure, illness or debt and loss. Keeping our faith certain and our hope strong that good is omnipotent and God-ordained will make us courageous as we face whatever would try to capture our peace, our freedom, or our life and livelihood.
I love the many “un” synonyms for “courageous” such as undaunted, unalarmed, undismayed, unafraid as well as unswerving, unfaltering, unflinching, and unconquerable — all qualities that would keep us trying again and again until we reach our goal or solve a problem.
We may never face life or death choices like Capt. Phillips and his crew. But whatever our endeavor, we can choose to never give up. We can choose to not readily accept defeat. We can choose to never believe we are without hope.
May there come a day when humanity learns to live in peace with one another and no longer tries to rob another of what they could earn for themselves rightfully, legally and fairly.
Let’s continue our prayers for the safety and freedom of the many that remain hostages of pirates.