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The courage not to cut the line

The following post first appeared on the Matthew 419 blog Fishers of Men: Catch the Life You’re Called to Live.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Harris could have done what so many others would’ve.

At the bottom of a murky pond in Maryland last year, Harris was struggling for air and losing strength as his scuba diving partner, Petty Officer 1st Class James Reyher, became trapped in 150 feet of water under debris. Almost everything went wrong on the dive, reported the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. Equipment malfunctioned. Communications with sailors on the surface became garbled. According to the official report, Harris could’ve cut his line connected to Reyher and save himself.

Cut the Line

But he refused.

“Harris exhausted himself in an attempt to save Reyher,” said a military investigator in documents obtained by the Virginian-Pilot. “Both divers resisted the natural instincts of self-preservation, in order to expel his last breaths in an effort to save each other.”

The most powerful human instinct to overcome is self-preservation. It drives men and women – good ones – to do things they regret the rest of their lives when someone else had to pay a price. They may run or back away when someone needs help. They may ignore an obvious need. They may convince themselves someone else can step up and do it.

Or, they go against those instincts and become the hero even at a personal cost. In the case of Harris, a married father of two young daughters, it was the ultimate earthly price.

The cost of brotherhood

Men use the term “brother” to describe others they have no biological relation to. It comes at varying levels of sincerity. We’d like to think we’re the type of guy like Harris, choosing to stay with someone he surely considered a brother rather than leave. It’s an impossible call to make, though, unless you’ve actually been in a similar situation.

Do a search for “brotherhood” in the Bible and you’ll get a lot of responses, including:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. ~Pro. 18:24

and …

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. ~1 Pt. 2:17

There’s a crisis among men today having a lack of brotherhood. It happens easily. We get busy with home and work and before you know it you’ve lived in the same town for years and realize you still don’t really know many guys that well.

It’s all the more reason for re-establishing the importance of brotherhood among men, especially among Christian men. With each day the importance of guys who think in a Christlike mindset becomes more crystalized. We see the alternative in the major headlines around the world.

Being a brother requires some sacrifices in time and commitment. It requires risking friendships when someone has taken a step in the wrong direction. It requires us to not cut the line in those times it would be the easiest thing to do. From the Virginia-Pilot story (italics added):

“As he watched his air supply disappear, Harris could have cut the line connecting him to Reyher. That would have freed him. But neither man ever pulled out their knives, the investigator concluded.”

One more thing about Ryan Harris: his heroics weren’t discovered until the completion of the investigation 16 months after he died. For all that time it was an extremely tragic event that claimed the lives of two military servicemen with no one knowing the real story.

That’s something else about brotherhood – it’s done in anonymity. It doesn’t grow through expected pats on the back, but simply because. It grows by doing the things others wouldn’t.

ScottBarkleyScott Barkley is a deacon at First Baptist Church in Cartersville, Ga., where he maintains and writes for the men’s ministry website at Matthew419.net. He and his wife, Amy, have four children. 

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read the post The courage not to cut the line by guest poster Scott Barkley on the Stepping Up men’s blog

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAre there men who you would sacrifice your life for? Do you have men in your life who would do the same for you?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistListen to John Vawter on FamilyLife Today broadcast discuss how to have High Performance Friendships with other men.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistSeriously consider organizing a Stepping Up 10-week study, so you can begin the process of connecting with other men

 

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