I remember a horrific story I heard on the news a few years ago. A member of a sky diving club decided to take a video camera with him and film the club's jump. On the plane before the jump he took care to see that his video equipment was all ready. After all, it would be a shame to make the jump without fresh batteries and a blank tape in the camera. When the plane reached the proper altitude the sky divers jumped, and the one with the camera started filming their descent. There was only one problem. He had taken care to get his video equipment ready, but he had forgotten to put his parachute on. When he reached to pull his ripcord, it wasn't there. He fell to his death.
I have often thought of that man and tried to imagine what he felt during his fatal fall. No doubt there was terror, but I imagine he also had thoughts of self recrimination--"you stupid idiot." I am sure he wished he could have replayed the last few minutes, but there was no way to get back in the plane and do it over again. It was too late. It was an act of simple forgetfulness, but it had drastic consequences.
Such events are not as rare as one would think. Lives are full of similar events--simple acts of carelessness with drastic consequences. Sometimes they are not acts of forgetfulness but intentional actions of choice. A man falls to temptation and sleeps with a woman other than his wife, and it leads to the breakup of his marriage and the alienation of his children. A teenager drinks and drives and is involved in an accident which kills his best friend. There is no way the actions can be taken back no matter how much one would wish. The consequences sometimes are more severe than one would have ever imagined while engaging in the misdeed.
It does us good to remember that life is full of danger of all types--including moral danger. Actions have consequences. People can be hurt and lives destroyed even when there is no intention of doing so.
The police sergeant on the old TV show, "Hill Street Blues," put it well: "Be careful out there."
Peter, the apostle, was even more pointed: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour."
©1997 C. David Hess