the spritual truths of captain phillips

10.20.2013 |

the other night mark and i got to see the movie captain phillips.  we had both been dying (well literally aching with anticipation) to see this movie.  something about the way tom hanks can capture the rawest emotion in his films makes you feel like you are with him on his island, sitting on a park bench waiting for the bus, stuck inside an airport, about to crash a space shuttle, or held hostage by somalian pirates.  regardless of his movie, tom hanks pulls at your heart and (if you're like me) you will find your self wiping away a few rouge tears every once in a while. 

i've been helping out with the youth group at church since the beginning of the year, and though they might think i'm making a difference in their lives, i can assure you that my life has been forever changed by their kids, instead, let's call them my little brothers and sisters. 

so my little brothers and sisters have taught me to look at the world differently.  how?  well they play this "game" of sorts.  find the spiritual truth in everything.  they look at a situation, a game, a movie, a passage, etc and relate the concept back to Christ.  for example: we played musical chairs and when the music stops, you have to find a seat. well, you don't always know when the music is going to stop and if you aren't paying attention, you will be left without a seat.  translate: Christ is going to return one day, and if you are not actively seeking Christ and pursuing love of others, then you will be left without a seat in heaven.  now, i know that is maybe an elementary illustration, but it was neat to hear the different responses of my little family.

so that moves me to the movie captain phillips.  what kind of spiritual truths could i possibly find in a movie where 4 somalian pirates hijack a cargo vessel with a crew of 20 then kidnap and hold the captain hostage in a small life boat? well. keep reading because it's about to get intense.  (regardless of how historically accurate this movie may be, i am writing on behalf of the movie)

captain phillips went about his business as captain of the maerskk alabamaa.  he took precautionary measures and intensified safety drills when he found out his cargo route passed around the horn of Africa, where Somalia is located.  he was well of the dangers in those waters, even receiving conformational emails of heightened piracy in those international waters.  when he saw the pirate skives appear on their doppler, the crew took action.  preparing the vessel so attack would be more difficult.  however, the pirates made contact and hopped aboard the massive ship.  the lives of 20 crewmen were in the control of captain phillips and the somalian "fisherman."   captain does everything trying to deter the somalis but remain unsuccessful.  captain calls on help but help seems far out of reach.  captain phillips tells the pirates they can have 30,000 USD and a lifeboat to get them safely back to the somaliaa coastline, but it wasn't enough.  they kidnap phillips and are motoring to the border.  meanwhile, help has not forgotten them.  the US navy seals prepare for action.  with one man's life now at stake, the navy gets their bells and whistles ready to rescue phillips no matter the cost.   the somalis are a threat to the american captain, and the US navy wants their captain returned safely, without harm.  phillips is running low on morale, energy, life.   he does what i would imagine any one would do in that situation, and he tries to escape while peeing.  he jumps in the water and attempts to swim away but the somalis shoot at him and jump in after him.  he almost drowns and gets dragged back onto the boat and beaten.  he tried to save himself, which is something i can relate to in many much less threatening situations.  in the end, america the beautiful wins and somalian pirates are defeated.

so how does this relate to a spiritual truth? i never mentioned God, jesus, the bible, satan, hell, heaven, repentance, and a long list of other words that cause people to shrill back in fear or fall down in rejoice.  so then what is the spiritual truth? i'm getting there.

all too often we find ourselves aimlessly drifting in life.  we have a destination and we know that it isn’t always going to be easy, yet we journey on and try to avoid conflict and difficult times at all costs. we have the opportunity to be lead our friends, family, coworkers, students, and strangers in a positive or sometimes negative way.  in the end, we could be responsible for more lives than just our own.  so we are on a voyage throughout our lives.  like captain phillips we make sure we protect ourselves from the dangers around us; we double check our doors, go through safety routines, and prepare for the worst.  however, things go awry and devastations occur.  so how do we react?  do we run or do we fight? are we capable of saving ourselves? where is our hope and can we expect trials to come?

we are aware that trials can come. someone suddenly dies, cancer pops up, you miscarry, a tragic car accident happens, you get paralyzed, you go through a divorce, you stub your toe and spout off colorful language, you find yourself looking at inappropriate images, you are alone and drink your worries away. so many things happen in our lives, and i’m not suggesting that life is rainbows and butterflies for me – because it’s anything but that – but i can let you know that i have real struggles and real problems in my life and i don’t plan on fighting them alone.

so pirates come into your life and attempt to steal your happiness, family, friends, joy, life.  what next?

you do the only thing you know how to do.  you do your best to protect those you love and give it a fighting chance. but you can’t do it alone and you situation ends up kidnapping you and stealing you away from all that you knew.  you find yourself in a new place, with new friends, with new images, with new circumstances, with new lovers, with new experiences, with new struggles, with a plethora of other “new’s” that you didn’t anticipate crossing your path.  maybe it was intentional, maybe it “just happened,” but regardless, here you are, stuck in a lifeboat meant to preserve your life and instead your life is being sucked away from you.  the pirates have taken you and you’re not sure if you will ever lead the same life again.

you’re tired of being held captive.  you muster enough strength to try and make a get-away.  for a breathe of fresh air you try to escape the binds of the enslavers.  you jump and swim away as fast as your wounded body allows, but the pirates shoot.  your circumstance comes right back to you, in your face, you cannot escape by your own power.  your circumstances follow and try to drown you. it holds you under and you are forced to climb aboard the U.S.S. DEATH SENTENCE. 

but a glimpse of hope, help comes. you see the Light and it has come to rescue you.  before, you were unsure of your future.  what was going to happen to you?  though the lifeboat is glum, the sheer appearance of help gave you something to hold on to.  you communicate with this Help in almost a secret language, “tell my family i am in seat 15.”  a secret language you and the Help are only aware of.  you’ve communicated your situation and expressed your deepest concerns.  the Light has seen you in your most vulnerable and is willing to sacrifice everything to redeem you from your pirates.

this is exactly what Christ has done for us.  he saw us at our worst, in our most helpless, wretched state but he shined his Light upon us and sacrificed EVERYTHING just to rescue us, to redeem us from the pirates, the darkness, the filth. to restore us to our position as captain to His navy – something we were not (and never will be) capable of doing on our own.  when our pirates’ power gets overthrown, we have to take off our blindfold and accept the rescue.  we would be foolish to deny the help of the united states navy, so why do we refuse the rescue of Jesus Christ when we poured out his life, he traded his life for ours.  he willingly put himself on the lifeboat full of pirates and became a hostage for us.

when we finally realize how close we were to death, we fall silent, in shock, unable to speak.  the cost of the rescue did not come cheap and nor was it easy, but it was the only option.  saving you was the only option. your life is forever changed and even though you may go back out on the waters, you know that help is on its way.  you are better prepared, you have hope, you can journey through uncharted waters with a peace.

“for by grace you have been saved through faith.  and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.”
ephesians 2:8-9

“the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. but to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
john 1:9-13

"he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."
1 john 2:2

"the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."
john 1:5

"but when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. therefore it says, awake of sleep and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
ephesians 5: 13-14

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