Saturday, November 14, 2020

When the Skies of November Turn Gloomy

Guest Post by Jim Beatty – a fellow Servant of Jesus Christ… a sinner who has turned away from a sinful lifestyle… writing in hopes of throwing somebody a life ring.

Webmaster Note: This past week marked the 45th anniversary of the event of which Jim writes. He sent the article late last year, but we saved it until now for posting. The image below comes from the US Corps of Engineers and is in the public domain.

Most of us know about Veteran’s Day and I’m sure everyone knows when Thanksgiving is. Those dates are usually marked right on the calendar for us, because they are important days that we should remember. But there’s another important day in November that’s not generally marked on our calendar, and that is November 10th, the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.

The Fitzgerald wasn’t one of the thousand foot “super tankers”, but a pretty big ship on the Great Lakes, with a length of almost 750 feet. Being what’s known as a “straight decker”, the Fitzgerald was perfect for hauling iron ore pellets, as she was that fateful night. Gordon Lightfoot took poetic liberties when he sang “They left fully loaded for Cleveland” when in fact, they left fully loaded for Zug Island, which is near Detroit, but I suppose you just can’t make Zug Island rhyme.

Captain McSorley was a veteran sailor with over 40 years experience and had taken command of the Fitzgerald only a few years earlier. It’s ironic that this was scheduled to be his final journey before retirement.

Lake Superior that night had waves of 35’, and the wind was about 60 miles per hour. The weather was so bad that the Soo Locks had been closed and the Coast Guard had issued a warning for all vessels to take safe harbor and to remain at anchor until the storm had passed.

The Captain of the Fitzgerald radioed that his ship was listing. They were taking water across the deck and both radars were out. The Steamship Arthur Anderson was following some distance behind, trying to guide them by radio to the safety of Whitefish Bay.

We know how the story ends. The Fitzgerald sunk suddenly... very suddenly in about 600 feet of water and all the men on board died.

I was working on the freighters in those days. In fact, we were safely at anchor in the lee of a small island on Lake Huron. But I remember from our lifeboat training that we were told, “There’s no need to panic, there’s no hurry, you don’t have to rush, it takes at least 45 minutes for a ship to sink. There’s plenty of time to get the lifeboats ready.”

But that’s not how it happened on the Fitzgerald that night. In fact, about a year later, I met a man who said he was working on the Arthur Anderson that night. He said it happened so quickly that with one sweep of the radar screen she was there, and the next sweep she was gone.

Gordon Lightfoot hit it square on when he sang, “The lake it is said... never gives up her dead... when the skies of November turn gloomy”.

You know, I have to wonder how many, if any, of those men had come to Christ at some time before that final journey. And I have to wonder how many of those men cried out to Christ with their last breath as they sank into that icy water.

Sometimes we get so caught up with the cares of the world and our own “stormy situations” that we forget about our relationship with God.

“Oh, you don’t understand! I’ve got to work a lot of overtime to pay off my student loans... or whatever. I don’t have time for that religious stuff right now”, or so we reason.

Others may be caught up in a lascivious lifestyle. Drinking and carousing, carelessly singing, “eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” Those poor spirits never even see the need to change their course, much less to get the lifeboats ready!

Others may think they can just put it off, “Oh, I’m a good guy and people like me. I mean, I go to church, you know... or at least sometimes. It’s not like you have to really follow all that stuff. Besides, I can always repent on my death bed. Certainly Jesus will wait for ME, won’t he?”

The trouble is, as the Edmund Fitzgerald shows us, sometimes the calamities of life happen so suddenly that we don’t always have time to even LOOK for the lifeboats. Proverbs 27:1 says, “Don’t boast about tomorrow, for a man doesn’t know what a day might bring”.

So the question is, “When should I change my course... when should I get my lifeboat ready?” Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians 6:2, “And he said, in the favorable time, I listened in the favorable day, you needed salvation and I helped. Behold, THIS is the favorable time. Behold, THIS is the day of salvation”.

If there is anyone reading this message and has come to a point in your life where you see the need to change your course, you see that it’s time to get the lifeboat ready. I urge you to seek out competent biblical teaching, believe in the Word and repent from the world. Be baptized and receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit.

I urge you to seek out and build your relationship with the One who can calm the stormy sea. And I urge you to do this while it is still the favorable day, before one of life’s calamities can strike!

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