Just finished…

I’m not one to write detailed (or even accurate) book reviews. But since I read (and read, and read, and read), and then talk (and talk, and talk, and talk) to people about things I read, I figured this was, at the very least, an OK idea. If it’s like anything else I do in blog format, I’ll start and then never finish… (see my previous series, which I will someday finish) So let’s see if I can assemble broadly sweeping, mildly coherent thoughts about a book.

ShadowI wrapped up Andrew Wilson’s Shadow of the Titanic today. Weeks ago, as I was preparing a series of messages for a college fall retreat, I grabbed this book. My series was to be about the biblical narrative of Noah. The morbid notion of “death by water” brought the Titanic to mind.

When I think of survival, and in particular of life-after-survival, I tend to think happy thoughts. Escaping something tragic sounds like a good thing. But one aspect of the biblical flood narrative that always intrigued (and on some levels troubled) me involves the survival of sin after the flood. In other words, if the flood is a picture of deliverance, what are we to do with the continuing stain of sin after the deluge? What are we to do with our (spoiler alert) drunk & naked flood survivor?

These thoughts & questions led me to Wilson’s Shadow.

Of the 700 or so that survived the icy waters of the Atlantic on the morning of April 14-15, 1912, some carried on with a new lease on life. You know, happy stuff.

For so many, though, the sinking of the Titanic was only the beginning of suffering. For so many, the great story of survival tragically carried the weight of living while others had perished. Wilson captures many of these less-than-happy stories in a narrative that shines light on what life was like for those who, though they lived, couldn’t escape the sunken vessel.

Sounds cheery, right?

I found the book quite interesting in considering the biblical story of Noah. Obviously a great deal of my thoughts are speculative, as the Word doesn’t get into the psychology of our beloved ark-builder, but surviving the deluge had to be challenging for him and his family, particularly as the realities of sin and brokenness carried on so powerfully after the waters subsided.

As I read these stories of Titanic’s survivors, I was drawn into their brokenness. Obviously I’ve not experienced their particular despair. I can identify with being a recipient of salvation and yet having to daily struggle with ongoing sin, pain, and shame. I can only imagine, though, the burden of their experience.

One story that really grabbed me was that of Madeleine Astor. Eighteen years old on Titanic, Madeleine was the wife of John Jacob Astor, one of the wealthiest men to die aboard the ship. Young Madeleine inherited a fortune and a lifestyle, conditional (according to Astor’s will) on her remaining a widow for the remainder of her life. She chose to step away from the fortune, marrying a childhood sweetheart four years later. Her life seemed to take one tragic turn after another. She married for a third time in 1932, this time to a prizefighter who would “subsequently leach her of her money and use her as his punching bag.” Tales like Astor’s are apparently more common than you might think among the survivors of Titanic.

Despite the tragic nature of the book, I enjoyed it. On a far different scale, I could identify with the brokenness. As I read story after gray story, I couldn’t help but notice that the trappings of these stories began long before the maiden voyage of the unsinkable Titanic. The pain and shame of the survivors was rooted much earlier and much deeper, only exacerbated by the magnitude of the experience of Titanic.

When I jump into books like these, I look for common experience – on any level. I look for scarlet threads of God’s eternal Truth running throughout. In Shadow, I couldn’t help but see the survival of brokenness. I couldn’t help but see a glimpse of Noah’s life after the flood, the reality of continuing sin and pain. Though it may not have been the author’s intent, Shadow stirred in me a longing for a day when every tear will be wiped away, when death shall be no more, when mourning, crying, pain and the former things have passed away, and One who is greater makes all things new.

If you’re interested, you can check out Andrew Wilson’s book on Amazon

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