Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
One of the plans I had when I retired was to start reading some of my many books. I don’t know how many I’ve got—but there are lots. That was the idea anyway. Unfortunately I’ve still got lots sitting there not read.
But one of them I really want to was a book called Leadership by the former mayor of New York, Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani. He was mayor of this large city for two terms, and will be best remembered for his work on September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed. It was to be his greatest leadership challenge.
How can we forget the terrible images of the falling buildings, and so many innocent lives lost. I recall seeing the mayor walking in the dust and panic of New York City hours after the attack, which nobody had predicted. He says the events of September 11 affected him more than anything else in his life. And I’m not surprised at all.
Rudolph Giuliani led the people of New York City through the aftermath, the grief, and clean up process. He went to hundreds of funerals of friends and especially the city firefighters who died in this unbelievable tragedy. Part of this book Leadership tells how, when faced with difficult decisions, he would look out of his office window at St Paul’s Chapel. He said he was “inspired by God’s enduring presence in our city and country”.
On the day of the attack, he specifically asked for the New York fire brigade chaplain to pray with him. This chaplain was himself killed. People begin to ask the question, “Where is God in this crisis?” We can all remember that dreadful day. One of the newscasters summed it up at the end of that sad Tuesday when he said, “The foundations of America have been shaken.”
A Time of Decision
In times of crisis, what do we do? Panic, ask questions, or do we call out to God? It’s a very important question. There is a story, from many decades ago, about a construction worker. He was employed on a high-rise building project, which required him and others to work after dark.
He was busy on the edge of one of the walls which was many stories high, when he suddenly lost his balance and fell. As he fell over the edge, he managed to grab the edge of the wall with his fingertips. Desperately he hung on hoping that somebody would discover his perilous situation. He was in total darkness, barely hanging on to the wall, and crying for help, but no one could hear him due to the noise and machinery at the construction site.
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Very soon his arms began to grow weak and his fingers began to relax. He tried very hard to force them to hold on but eventually and slowly his grip began to slip. He tried praying, but no miracle occurred. At last his fingers slipped from the wall and with a cry of horror he fell! He fell exactly three inches to a scaffold that had been there all the time, but he had not seen because of the darkness.
This story illustrates the situations we sometimes find ourselves in when we face various crises in life. For many of us we have faced—or are facing or will be facing—a crisis in our life. No matter who you are, no one is armoured from crisis. We must all face crises in our lives. The word ‘crisis’ itself is the word for turning point.
The turning point for better or worse. A time of decision. A decisive moment, a significant event in a person’s life can go either way. Sometimes we feel that we are all alone, desperately doing all we can to save ourselves, crying out for help but feeling unheard, until finally we lose all our own strength and let go.
(To be continued in What Happens in a Crisis – Part 2)