I’m sure you’ve all heard the joke.
An elderly woman is alone in her house when the town begins to flood. Steadfast in her faith, she waits on the front porch and a boat comes along.
The man in the boat says, “Please get in, the water’s rising and it won’t stop.”
“That’s okay, honey, go and get someone else,” the old woman says. “I’ve put my trust in God. He will provide.”
The waters continue to rise. The entire lower level of the home is flooded, and she’s waiting at the window of the second story. Another boat comes along.
“You really have to get out of there! C’mon, and we’ll take you to dry ground,” the man in the boat says.
“That’s okay, honey, go and get someone else. I’ve put my trust in God. He will provide.”
The rising waters have now consumed nearly her entire house, and the woman has scrambled to the roof. A loud sound echoes from above, and she looks up and sees a hovering helicopter. Over the loudspeaker, the pilot says, “Lady! Take the rope and we’ll haul you up! This is your last chance!”
A third time, she shouts, “I’ve put my trust in God! He will provide!”
The helicopter flies off. The waters rise. The woman dies.
In Heaven, she marches up to God and says, “Lord, what gives?! I put all of my trust in You, and I still perished in the flood!”
God sighs. “I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”
We like to put ourselves in the shoes of the old woman. Maybe not actually in the midst of a real flood, but in the “flood” of our lives. Bills we can’t pay. Not getting a job. A call home from the principal. A flat tire. A bad diagnosis at the hospital. Various things hit various people in various ways. Usually, it takes a tragedy for us to “put things into perspective,” and many times, it has the inadvertent effect of making us angry at those who treat much smaller inconveniences (as we might consider them) as monumental, woe-is-me, how-will-I-ever-go-on, my-life-stinks problems. “I can’t believe he’s getting upset about that,” we mutter. “In the ‘Grand Scheme,’ that is totally meaningless.”
Ah. The old “Grand Scheme” argument.
But what the Grand Scheme is for one person is not the same Grand Scheme for another. The problems in people’s lives are not uniform, not the same list to be checked off as we age. We all experience different problems, and what one person considers insignificant might ruin someone else. We have to recognize that and be there for the person in their struggles, struggles they may consider a sizeable obstacle in their lives. And you won’t be able to help them through it with, “Look, it’s not a big deal. It could be worse.”
They know that. They know all the things that “could be worse.”
But many times, right now, in that moment, it feels worse. They don’t need a buck-up-camper speech.
In the joke, we identify with the old woman. “Everything is crumbling, but, Lord, I’ve put my trust in You. Show me a sign that this is ‘meant to be.’ Or that that is the path I’m supposed to take. I don’t know what the sign will look like, but if it comes from You, I’m sure it’ll be awesome and I’ll know it when I see it.”
Really? Because the Lord did send signs. Two boats, and a helicopter.
Or, more specifically, the people in the two boats and the helicopter.
Which brings me to “another perspective.”
When are we the people in the boats? Or the helicopter? When are we being called to be a sign for someone else who is in the midst of a flood? Sure, we’re dealing with our own problems while trying to decipher God’s hand and His will among the many crumbling pillars of our lives… but maybe the sign we’re looking for is someone else in distress. Maybe God’s not trying to teach us patience with the problems that come our way. Maybe He’s trying to teach us that even in our low times, when we have nothing left, we are still strong enough to be exactly who someone else needs. We don’t know what they’ve been praying for, how they are reacting to their problems – problems we might consider insignificant but that are their problems nonetheless.
Is God calling us to be someone’s answered prayer? Is He calling us to be His sign to someone in need? Is He calling us to simply be a friend for someone who needs one in their moment?
Is God asking us to be a boat or a helicopter in order to rescue someone?
If we try to look at things from another perspective, we just might find that not only will we help rescue someone, we’ll find the rescue we’ve also been looking for.