The USS Astoria was a heavy cruiser that saw duty during World War II’s Battle of the Coral Sea and at Midway, then was sunk in August of 1942 at the Battle of Savo Island. On board in the fight for Savo was Signalman 3rd class Elgin Staples. Sometime around 2 a.m. on the ship’s final day, Staples was blown overboard when one of the Astoria’s gun turrets exploded. In the water, wounded in both legs by shrapnel and in a state of near-shock, Staples was kept afloat by a narrow lifebelt which he had activated by a trigger.
In his book, “The Grand Weaver,” Ravi Zacharias tells the fascinating story of what happened next.
Four hours after being blown into the Pacific, Staples was picked up by a passing destroyer and returned to the Astoria. Even though the cruiser had been severely damaged, her captain was trying to beach the ship in order to save her. When his attempts failed, Staples found himself back in the water. By now, it was noon.
This time it was the USS President Jackson that plucked him out of the water. On board, Staples studied that little lifebelt which had saved his life twice that day. He noticed the belt was manufactured by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, and carried a registration number.
Allowed to go home for a visit, Staples related his story to the family and asked his mother, who worked for Firestone, the purpose of the registration number on the belt. She pointed out that the company was holding employees responsible for their work in the war effort, and that each worker had his/her own number. Staples recalled everything about that lifebelt, including the registration number. As he called it out, his mother’s eyes grew large. She said, “That was my personal code that I put on every item I was responsible for approving!”
His mother had made the belt which had saved his life twice.
Ravi Zacharias concludes, “The one who gave him birth and whose DNA he bore gave him rescue in the swirling waters that threatened to take his life. If an earthly parent playing the role of procreation can provide a means of rescue without knowing when and for whom that belt would come into play, how much more can the God of all creation accomplish?”
I like to think of such accounts as a miniature photo of the Heavenly Father caring for His own.
God said, “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.'” (Isaiah 43:1-2,25)
Our Lord Jesus said, “When (the shepherd) puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice… I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep and am known by my own. As the Father knows me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:3-4,14-15)
Okay, now a confession.
I didn’t want to end this article with that story, as excellent as it is. This lesson needs a little more to “set” it. So after combing through the books on various shelves of my office, I turned to Mark Buchanan’s “Things Unseen,” where he tells this story.
William M. Dyke became blind when he was ten. In his early 20s, attending grad school in England, he fell in love with the daughter of a British admiral and they planned to marry. Her father, however, agreed to the marriage only if Dyke would submit to surgery that could possibly restore his sight. He agreed, on one condition. He did not want the gauze removed from his eyes until the moment he met his bride at the altar. He wanted her face to be the first thing he looked upon with his new sight. There was the risk, of course, that the surgery would fail and he would see nothing. He was willing to take the chance.
After the surgery, the day of the wedding came. As the parents led the bride and groom together at the altar of the church, William’s father removed the gauze from his eyes. Until that moment, no one knew if the surgery had worked.
When the last strand of the gauze was taken away, William Dyke was face-to-face with his bride. The wedding party was speechless and breathless. Then William spoke: “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined.”
Buchanan writes, “One day that will happen to us, only the roles will be reversed. ‘Now we see but a poor reflection in a mirror,’ Paul says, ‘then we shall see face to face. Now I know (Him) in part; then I shall know (Him) fully, even as I am fully known’ (I Corinthians 13:12). One day, the Bride of Christ, near blind now, will stand before her Bridegroom at the Wedding Feast, and the veil will be removed, the scales will fall away, and we will see Him face-to-face and know Him even as we are fully known.”
“And He will be more beautiful than we ever imagined.”
Amen. Thank you, loving Lord.