The text message screamed, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL”.
What followed was thirty-eight excruciating minutes of terror. An ordered world turned to madness as people screamed, and wailed, and ran in panicked frenzy. Holing up in basements. Cowering in bathtubs. Huddling helpless in closets. Stoplights barely given a cursory glance by speeding cars. Cell phone usage exploded as frantic citizens tried to reach loved ones.
For most, there was no where to go, no where to hide. I. Cannot. Imagine.
Hawaiians are keenly aware of what we often ignore—North Korea’s threats. Only 5,700 miles away, a crazed dictator dwells. With the push of a button he can release a missile that would only take half an hour to reach them. By the time detected, residents would have as little as twelve minutes to take cover. So there was no reason to disbelieve the texts.
“I love you,” was expressed a hundredfold as the minutes ticked. Confessions flung. Apologies flowed. For many, it was the worst half hour of their lives.
And then it came. Not the end as expected, but the official admission to a monumental gaffe. “MISSILE ALERT IN ERROR THERE IS NO THREAT.”
Within fifteen minutes of the original text, officials realized the mistake, but because of a system flaw, cellphone messages to repeal the alert were delayed for thirty-eight excruciating minutes.
And in an instant, anger replaced confusion.
Words hurled like a torpedo of pointing fingers…inexcusable, fiasco, outrage. But along with the fury surfaced a new appreciation for life, and a new camaraderie between strangers. A pure joy in existence bubbled forth.
But it was a sobering reality check for many. People who are going to die in a tragic fashion, rarely have warning. But they had half an hour to contemplate the looming end. Instantaneous decisions stripped away the messy, and revealed what was of utmost importance in a busy life. Important people were front and center as they should be, not pushed to the side, while the squeaky wheels of work and duty wrench attention.
I’ve pondered what I would do if faced with imminent death. I hope I would pause and pray first. But the reality is—ever the multi-tasker—I would probably pray in spurts and fits as I plunged headlong into the locating of my family, and the race to reach their side.
And I most definitely would do some begging, maybe not for my life, but to spare my family, and for a quick and painless end, and for a miracle to change the outcome and…
And though I know my final destination, the fear of the unknown could be frightening. Would it be painful? Would it be over in a flash? And even now, as I hear the latest newscasts about our fragile world, worry grips, and anxiety simmers as I see flashes of evil everywhere.
So here are three ways we can evict the fear and look at our world with fresh, and thankful eyes:
1. Turn off the TV. We have no control over world affairs and the crazies that parade across the screen. Worry over the unknown is a wasteful mental exercise. God is in control. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
2. Open your eyes. Be intentional every day as you look for his blessings, a glorious sunset, the voice of a friend, the kiss of a child… “The godly are showered with blessings; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.” Proverbs 10:6 (NLT)
3. Take refuge in God’s arms. Cast your cares on him. “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” Psalm 5:11(NIV)
What would you do if you received a grim text of imminent demise on your phone? Where would you go? Who would you call?