From Max Lucado’s book, In the Eye of the Storm, comes this story:
“It happens every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembles a giant orange and is starting to dip into the blue ocean, Old Ed comes strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched in his bony hand is a bucket of shrimp.
Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. … Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him. Ed stands there tossing out shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a smile, “Thank you. Thank you.” In a few short minutes, the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn’t leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place.
His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker. … On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft. Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. … They needed a miracle.
Time dragged. … Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on top of his cap. It was a seagull! Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal – a very slight meal for eight men – of it. They used the intestines for bait. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait … and the cycle continued. With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued.
Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first living seagull. And he never stopped saying, “Thank you.” That’s why almost every Friday night he would walk out to the end of that pier with a bucket full of shrimp and heart full of gratitude” (pp. 221, 225-226).
Eddie Rickenbacker’s thankfulness for a seagull that had to die that he and his crew might live is a rather crude reminder of one who died that, to paraphrase Jesus words, “We might have life and have it abundantly.” Far from following his precepts as a matter of obligation, we serve him because we love him, from a heart of deepest gratitude. The limitations to our drives and ambitions that we have chosen to accept are nothing when compared to the peace of mind, the sense of purpose, and the promise of eternal life that is ours due to the death and resurrection of the one who loved us first. “Thank you, dear Lord. Thank you … thank you!”
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