A few weeks back now, our community participated in an exercise called Alaska Shield. Many communities across this great Last Frontier held separate exercises tied together under the state umbrella.
Most of those drills were of the table-top variety. The planners sat around tables and discussed hypothetical situations which existed only on paper and considered what their response would be. Table-top exercises can be helpful in determining what the unanswered questions are within the emergency response community, but at some time all of these plans need to be tested to see if the answers are even viable.
We used to have a saying in the Marine Corps that went, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”
The crux of that saying was, at some point we need to see if our plans are possible, and we need to do it at live speed. A football team that only practices at half-speed without contact teaches principles and concepts, but doesn’t stand a chance in live games. They don’t yet know how to take a hit and still move on. They can’t improvise based upon unexpected response. There are too many variables that they haven’t even considered.
The planners in Kodiak implemented live elements into their exercise. Some worked, some didn’t, but if we ever have a real disaster — maybe I should say, “when we have a real disaster” — we are that much further ahead of the game. We are preparing for the worst in order to be able to handle whatever comes.
In the eighth chapter of Luke, we find Jesus planning his own “faith” exercise for his disciples. He said, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake,” so they got into a boat and set out. Jesus laid down for a nap and the journey began, but they encountered an unexpected storm. The waves rose and the winds blew, and these disciples, some of whom were fishermen, became frightened.
While I am sure that it wasn’t the first time that they had been in a boat when the storms blew, they were frightened. In fact, they woke up the sleeping Jesus and told him that they were in great danger. He rose, rebuked the wind and the waves, and then rebuked his disciples. “Where is your faith?” he asked, and they could only stand in amazement that even the wind and the waves obeyed him.
In the continuing saga of training, the 14th chapter of Matthew shows the next installment. They had just finished feeding the 5,000 when Jesus sent the disciples across the lake in a boat while he went up on the mountain to pray.
When the wind and the waves came, they battled it by themselves. In the early morning hours, as the storm raged, Jesus came to them walking on the water, and Peter asked if he could join him. At Jesus’ invitation Peter stepped off the boat and began to walk toward Jesus until he became distracted by the waves and began to sink. He cried out again for help, and Jesus lifted him from the water and asked him, “Why did you doubt?”
Jesus was preparing his disciples for the worst. First they crossed with him, and needed his help. Then they crossed without him, and he joined them in the midst of the storm.
One day, they would walk into the storm alone with the confidence that Jesus would never send them where he knew they couldn’t go. Knowing he was with them, even when his physical presence was not there, allowed them the confidence stand firm in all circumstances. He’s preparing us, too, but he is preparing us for the best, only if we trust him in the worst.