Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?

"What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?"

This was a popular song back when I was a teenager. It's a love song, the singer suggesting that the object of their affection spend the rest of their life with them. That would be fine if said object loved the singer back—and if the length of said life was substantial enough to make it all worth while.

For my birthday this year, my husband surprised me (after I hinted heavily) with a ticket to the Titanic exhibit at the Denver Museum. I don't know why the story fascinates me. Admittedly, I never thought much about it until the blockbuster movie a few years ago. (That's what a good yarn will do for you!) But, now my interest is piqued. Every person on that ship had a story. And over 1500 people thought that the rest of their life story would be longer.

At the beginning of the exhibit, my husband and I were given "boarding passes". This, I thought, was a cute idea. But it became so much more as we went along. Each pass was for a real person who had actually boarded the R.M.S. Titanic on April 10, 1912. It showed their age, where they were from, who accompanied them, and in what class they stayed. Other various bits of information were on the pass as well, including a "Passenger Fact" that gave further insight into who they were.

Jim's pass was for a Mr. Charles Edward Dahl. Traveling in third class, Mr. Dahl was a 45 year-old Norwegian who immigrated to Australia where he found work as a carpenter. On his way back home to Norway, he changed his mind in London and booked passage aboard Titanic.

My pass was for Miss Edith Corse Evans, age 26 from New York, New York. She traveled in first class, cabin #A29, and was accompanied by an aunt by marriage and the aunt's two sisters. Her fact? A few days before boarding, a fortune teller had warned her to beware of water.

Throughout the exhibit we looked at artifacts brought up from the wreckage. Partway through, we were led down a replica of a first class hallway. Gilded doors and fancy sconces on pristine white walls treated our eyes. A lush carpet treated our feet. I found as we moved into the first class dining room that I began taking on Miss Edith Evans's history, and began gloating to my third class companion (aka Jim, my husband,) about the decadent lavishness of first class over the starkness of third. The dining service set "I" used was so much prettier. The menu so much more suited to my worthy palate. Jim remained his quiet, humble self, not even having to take on Charles Dahl's persona.

We were informed early on to check out the names we were given on the wall at the end of the exhibit. It had a list of all who survived, and those who didn't. I told Jim that since he was an immigrant in third class, he probably didn't make it, but I, being a first-class passenger, and a young woman, no doubt survived in one of the lifeboats.

Yet, the fact about the fortune teller remained in the back of my mind.

Now, I don't put much stock in such things, but I began to worry about the state of Edith's salvation. If she went to a fortune teller, she was probably sorely lacking in that area. Even while pretending I was a much deserving first-class passenger, I found myself praying for her—now nearly a hundred years later.

Before I go on, let me say that I was reverent where it was due throughout the exhibit. (Lest you think I became an insensitive sow.) It was extremely well done, and paid tribute to every passenger on the fated ship. This hit home as we moved from the first class fluffery to the third class reality.

Bare walls with service lights and exposed pipes in the ceiling let us know that the fun was over. We were now entering the heart of the R.M.S. Titanic.

More artifacts, now from unnamed sources, were displayed in the same style glass ensconced pedestals that were in the first class part of the exhibit. A lighted silhouette of the lifeboats showed on the floor, to demonstrate the size. I couldn't imagine spending hours in the small lifeboat, wondering if I'd survive the night. I again thought about Edith. Did she make it?

We finally moved to the wall of passengers. With 2200 names divided by class, Jim found Charles. He survived. I was almost afraid to look for Edith. If she'd died, the chances of her being lost forever tore at my heart. I knew nothing about this woman except for what was on my boarding pass, yet we became connected. I put off looking for her name. I wandered the final room of the exhibit, reading newspaper articles in frames on the walls. Learning more about passengers who were highlighted on large posters. Touching the large slab of ice placed there to show how horribly cold the water was that night.

And then, I approached the wall. I found Edith's name. She did not survive.

My heart sobbed.

How could a first class passenger, a woman at that, not survive? I had taken on her identity, and because of that I felt as though I had been lost to eternity. I wanted to pray, but what would be the point? Can God honor a salvation prayer ninety-five years after a death? Maybe He can, knowing that I would come along a century later and plead for her life.

That night, at home, I looked up Edith Corse Evans on the internet. She was obviously a woman of substance and no doubt her death made the society pages. It did. She had given up her seat on the life boat for her aunt who had a husband and children waiting for her in New York. She promised to catch the next lifeboat . . . but there were no more. Knowing that her last act on this earth was one of serving humility made me feel better, and I pray that in her last hour of life that she repented of seeking a fortune teller and turned to the one true God.

In my devotion on January 1, the author quoted theologian Jonathan Edwards, who in 1722, drew up a list of seventy New Year's resolutions dedicating himself to live in harmony with God and others. One point on his list stated it quite well: Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life. Edith could have taken that seat on the lifeboat, but she chose instead to conquer her fear despite the ominous warning.

What are you doing the rest of your life? Will you spend it as if it were your last hour? Remember this verse from Ephesians: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. --Ephesians 4:1 NIV. I pray that I live my life worthy of the calling clear up to the time I pass into eternal life.

May 2008 be a time to live a life worthy of Christ!