John 4: 13 Jesus answered,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” NIV
The multiple videos posted on Facebook all start the same way: one person standing tall looking into the camera saying, “I accept the Ice Bucket Challenge and I now challenge…” Shortly thereafter, a large bucket of ice water showers down over his/her head with the accompanying gasping for air and frantic body actions. A smile crosses your face. What a great promotion to bring awareness of, and much-needed funds to, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) Foundation’s quest to find a cure. I must admit though, after a few dozen of the videos, I’m ready to send money just to get folks to stop making the videos…another good marketing tool. Would I accept this challenge? Donating money for sure but not the bucket of ice water. Why you ask? Would you believe that a single bucket of ice water nearly cost me my way of life…and could have cost me my life?
It was spring 1991. The first Persian Gulf War had just ended. I was the director of a weapons’ test team, which directly supported our fighter aircraft during the conflict. A test pilot and I had been sent to Saudi Arabia during the war to evaluate our aircraft weapons’ effectiveness. We interviewed the fighter pilots that shot down enemy aircraft, reviewed/evaluated their aircraft’s Heads-Up-Display (HUD) camera film of the air-to-air engagements, talked with staff agencies and aircraft maintenance personnel. Upon returning to the US, we were assigned to prepare a briefing of our findings to present to the Air Force Chief of Staff.
We built the briefing, cleared it through many layers of command, and, finally, presented it to ‘The Chief’. He directed us to brief a large number of combat units and staffs. At this point, the test pilot went back to his unit and I became the lone briefing officer. For the next couple of months, I travelled the US nearly nonstop. Then, it was time to take the briefing to Alaska and on to our units in Okinawa, Japan.
Arriving at Kadena Airbase, Okinawa, I was greeted by several pilots I had flown with in earlier assignments. One of the pilots was ‘Skid.’ Skid and I had spent nearly three years together in The Netherlands flying F-15s. He had recently been assigned to Kadena, but due to lack of the necessary security clearances needed for my briefing, he would not be allowed into our ‘inner circle’ for this visit. He proposed that we get together on a Saturday morning to go Hashing.
“Hashing…what in the world is Hashing?” I ask Skid.
“It’s a British running game. We have Hares and Hounddogs. Actually, a couple of our experienced runners act as Hares. They take off running about 15 minutes before the rest of the runners, Hounddogs. The Hares mark a trail with chalk. The Hounddogs try to follow the trail. The objective is for the Hounddogs to catch the Hares before they get back to our starting point. We usually run about 6-8 miles. You up for it?”
“Sounds great,” I say with more enthusiasm than I actually have.
“Super. I’ll pick you up at 8am. We always run in the city. You’ll get a great street-level tour, good buddy,” Skid says as he departs.
Saturday morning dawns clear, hot and humid. Skid and I arrive downtown where about 20 runners, mostly British, are in attendance. Five of us are new to Hashing so the leader of the Hashers fills us in…his British-accented English is a thing to enjoy. The Hares depart and precisely15 minutes later, we Hounds take off.
Following the Hares’ trail is not so easy. They make detours then backtrack. Cross major roads then down back alleys. 70 minutes later, we arrive back at our starting point and the Hares are safe as the Hounds are extremely fatigued, hot and thirsty. The temperature has climbed into the 90’s. As is Hashing custom, all first-time Hashers are immediately lined up for a ceremony. The leader starts his presentation, as the rest of the group is hoot and hollering. He pulls out a proclamation and begins to read. We newbies are granted full membership into The Hashers. He asked us to close our eyes for a solemn oath. At that point, a full bucket of ice water is poured over our hot, exhausted heads.
Chest pain shoots through my body. I bend over at the waist as my legs start to give. I gasp for air as my hands go to my chest. The blood rushes from my head. I feel hands grab me and hold me up. The bright light of day turns dim. I can feel and hear my heart in my ears. I hear voices saying “Relax, relax…are you okay?” The pain starts to wane. I sit down on the hot asphalt only to be picked up and carried to the shade. I am not alone; two other new runners join me. A cup of cold water is offered and accepted. As I sip the water, the pain departs, my eyesight returns, and I look at my friend, smile and shake my head. 15 minutes or so later, after many apologies are offered for ‘not thinking this through’, I am able to walk. Skid and I say our farewells and leave…friendship intact but no more Hashing on the agenda.
It seems life is much like Hashing. We gain the physical, mental and, for many, the spiritual foundation in our early years; we then set off to conquer the world. Our ‘trail’ is marked by human demands but is never easy to follow. We deviate, backtrack and may even take back alleys to reach our goals. We stand ready to receive our prize only to be showered by a ‘cold bucket of ice water’ knocking us totally off the trail; downsizing, cancer, heart attack, financial troubles, arrest, death of a loved one… just a few catastrophic events human society has to offer. The experienced pain can bring us to our knees and can drive us into darkness. Saul had everything going for him as a Pharisee when he traveled to Damascus. On that road, Christ brought him to his knees and blinded him for days. Paul came out of the darkness alive in Christ with a new trail to follow. Christ can do the same for us. He can steady us and transport us to the comfortable shade of His love. We must profess our faith in Him, humble ourselves while asking for forgiveness and submit our life to Him. He will give us a cup of cold water to refresh our thirsting soul and we will never thirst again. He will lead us on His marked trail as He did Paul…all we need to do is follow Him.