What are you relentlessly committed to pursue? Is there something that rises up to the level of importance that nothing could make you give in, even when heat of affliction is dialed way up?
In 1942, at the height of World War II, three Navy aviators operating under radio silence on a routine patrol lost their way and had to ditch their plane in the South Pacific when it ran out of fuel. The Douglas Devastator bomber sank quickly, leaving them with just a few supplies and an inflatable life raft not much bigger than a bath tub.
For 34 days they battled scorching sun, tormenting waves, and the cold of night. Only infrequent rain water and an occasional feast on whatever they could snag (a floating coconut, an albatross, and even a shark) kept them alive. Yet, there was only enough food to stir the pang of hunger, never enough to satisfy. Cramped together, unable to sleep, these men slowly wasted away until their flesh was raw from sores and they were unable to stand from the muscle and nerve fatigue.
As if suffering from physical exhaustion weren’t enough, a forming hurricane served up raging winds and waves, overturning their raft and tossing them into the sea. Three times. And each time they lost more of the precious little gear they salvaged from their downed craft, until they were left with nothing but the clothes on their back. Even those didn’t last.
Stripping naked, they used these clothes to soak up the water that was rapidly accumulating in their lifeboat. It was a seemingly futile task. Finally, the storm broke. The sun came out and, with it, the first signs of hope. As they warmed themselves, with their clothes by their side, the sea suddenly overturned their raft again. In what must have felt like a capricious act of cruelty, all was lost, save their very lives. With no gear, no clothes, no protection from the elements, no means to catch an occasional fish or fowl, they knew their time was short.
Yet, it was at this time—when everything was stripped from these men—that their resolve intensified. Here’s how Chief Petty Officer Harold Dixon described it:
“The loss of our clothes, our only shelter, seemed like a mighty hard blow for us to take at this stage of the game, after we had worked and schemed for so long to save ourselves. The thought of what we had already gone through—that clinched the argument. We all agreed that neither this nor any other disaster which could overtake us now was sufficient reason for giving up the fight we had been making. Again we shook hands all around, and vowed we’d go on.”*
When it’s our life that’s at stake, forming a conviction to press on may seem like a no-brainer. When it’s live or die, what other choice do we have?
But that’s an assumption bred from the safety of our homes. When faced with tumultuous and relentless waves, with no protection from the frigid cold of night and the scorching sun by day, with no food, nor water, and fading prospects for rescue, the decision to press on is no no-brainer. In fact, it takes relentless courage to continue.
Relentless courage rises up when everything you thought you needed is washed away. It says, “neither this nor any other disaster which could overtake me now is sufficient reason for giving up the fight.” Whether it’s a fight to revive your marriage, to dig out of a financial crisis, to pursue a dream, to be reconciled with a family member, or to overcome an health challenge, you can make the same vow.
At the very time that circumstances turned hopelessly against them, these relentlessly courageous men vowed to go on—a vow that was redeemed a day later when they washed ashore on the tiny island of Pukapuka.
What are you unwilling to give up on regardless of the heat of affliction that might come your way?
* From The Raft, Robert Trumbull, 1992