The Deadliest Catch is a reality TV show that follows several ships and crews fishing for Alaskan King Crab in the Bering Sea. During the fishing season, the crews battle ice that builds up from extreme, near-Arctic temperatures, fatigue due to round-the-clock fishing sessions they must endure in order to fill the hold and get the catch back to harbor, and the Bering itself. They also fight with each other from time to time. But on these ships, the Captain’s word is final. Ultimately, the Captain is responsible for the lives of his crew, the condition of his ship, and the numbers of his catch. Although the crabbing season doesn’t last all year, it is still very lucrative. Each crew member makes a full year’s wages in a few months. However, working in the 40 degree Bering Sea is the most hazardous work place imagined. The call every Captain and crew dread hearing is, “Man overboard.” If the man can’t be retrieved within a VERY short period, the frigid water will take his life.
This morning, while eating breakfast, I watched an episode of Deadliest Catch. The Time Bandit, with Captain Jonathan Hillstrand at the helm, was sailing within close proximity to another crab boat. As the ships are going out to fish or returning from sea, they carry their 800 pound crab pots stacked on the deck of the ship. One of the crew members of this other ship, was hanging on the side of the stacked pots, trying to secure them. The Bering was choppy and the ship rolled from side to side such that the man could reach his arm down into the ocean at times. Captain Hillstrand watched the man in the precarious spot until the crewman suddenly disappeared. Immediately, Hillstrand sounded the alarm and the entire crew began rehearsed rescue operations while shouting, “MAN OVERBOARD!”
At first, they had to spot the crewman in the rolling chop of the Bering Sea. One of the Bandit’s crewmembers, Russell, put on the bright orange survival suit in case he had to dive into the waves in order to save the freezing man. Thankfully, the man in the frigid drink was wearing a flotation vest and they were able to throw him a line after the Captain swung the Time Bandit to within range. The man was able to grab hold of the line, and the crew pulled him aboard. The rescue wasn’t over, however. He was so cold that they lead/supported/carried him to the crew quarters of the ship where his clothes were immediately stripped from him and he was wrapped in warm blankets and taken to the galley to warm up. Although he never lost consciousness, the guy staggered about and kept saying, “You saved my life…. I was so scared…. I’m so cold… You saved my life…” Eventually Captain Hillstrand, very shaken himself, came down to the galley. Immediately, Hillstrand embraced the crewman and accepted his emotional thanks for giving his life back to him.
Later, when the crewman was up in the wheelroom with the captain, Hillstrand radioed the captain of the other ship to let him know his crewman was safe. Suddenly, from off camera, the crewman could be heard to say… “Hey! Its my 31st birthday today!” They all laughed and Jonathan relayed the message to the other captain, and he responded… “Tell him he can have the rest of the day off to celebrate…” And the laughing continued.
Later, Hillstrand told of how they had attempted a similar rescue 9 years earlier, but were unsuccessful. When the drowning man was unable to grasp the line thrown him, Jonathan’s brother dove in the water after him, but the guy took in a huge breath of water just before the rescuer could get to him. Although they were able to haul the man onto the ship, he never regained consciousness despite 2 hours of CPR by the crew as they awaited the Coast Guard. Remembering the prior rescue attempt, Jonathan stated…”We’re even now,” speaking to the sea rather than to the interviewer.
If Captain Jonathan Hillstrand wouldn’t have been watching the small figure of a crewmember of a different ship working in a precarious position, then a man would have been lost at sea in the frigid Bering. Another name added to a memorial. Lost through the cracks…
The Captain had his eye on the nameless man. The Captain wasn’t too busy with the affairs of his ship to allow his gaze to be a net into which the crewman fell. It didn’t matter that they weren’t close friends. They shared a calling: they are Fishermen. Fishermen in the Bering Sea are a rough and tumble brotherhood. They compete with each other, fuss and fight with each other, party with each other, and save each other’s lives. They are brothers and when one boat is beached on the rocks, they all come for survivors.
My Captain has had his eye on me in the last day or two. He has rescued me from myself. He has spoken words of warmth and comfort:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Honestly, my battle has been with how I speak to myself. The precarious reality of my own definition. The waves of self-recrimination wash over me. These waves are ones I have been crushed with before, but I thought they were calmer, more controllable. And then another storm. What’s so frustrating is my battle is within! So this morning, I turned to the place I knew I can always go to restore perspective in a time of battle with myself: Romans 8. The last part of Romans 7 speaks directly to the inner turbulence, but then the waves of the storm crash upon the calm sea of Romans 8, verse 1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…
Reading further down, I was once again reminded that our circumstances are only waves seeking our attention…to distract us. Like Peter walking to Jesus on the water, I was beginning to look at the waves. Nothing in this life can change the way God loves me….
Oh look! A life line…