Like everyone else at ground zero, Charlie was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’d spent all day in the kitchen, overseeing a crew of thirteen junior bakers, churning out breads, cakes, pies and pastries for a crowd that never seemed to dwindle. Charlie had always hoped to make a name for himself in a famous kitchen, even heading off to a faraway city, armed with dreams of success. And now these dreams were coming true. As the chief baker in one of the world’s premier restaurants, Charlie was practising the trade he loved and devoted to pleasing his customers.
But at impact, when the walls and floor shuddered around him, Charlie knew something big had slammed into the towering structure. And when he saw the extent of the damage, he retired to the bar of his now empty restaurant to have what he knew would be the last drinks of his life. He consumed half a bottle of whisky and poured the rest into a large flask. Then he filled a sack with breads and pastries and made his way slowly up to the top floor. Elevators were not an option, so he took the stairs, encountering dozens of panicked customers along the way – people who just a few hours before had been sitting in his restaurant eating his cakes and pies, luxuriating in five-star elegance. “Follow me,” he said, “I know the way out.”
Up top, it was pandemonium. Charlie did everything he could to calm his customers. First, he handed out his pastries. Then he offered shots of courage from his seemingly bottomless flask. When it became obvious that the first responders were not responding, he did what he knew had to be done – he began pushing his customers over the edge. Understandably, many resisted, but Charlie knew there was no other way out. He grabbed them, one after the other, and heaved them over the side. But when the opportunity came for him to follow suit, he said, “No.” He gabbed another customer from the panicked crowd and insisted they go in his place – for Charlie had taken it upon himself to fill as many lifeboats with as many terrified women and children (all of whom were loathed to leave their fathers and husbands behind) as he possibly could. The only time he stopped was for another gulp of alcohol from his flask. Then, defying the basic laws of gravity, the baker crawled all the way up to what must have felt like the top of the world. There he rode the ruined remains all the way down as he finished off the alcohol in his flask, waiting until the last possible second before stepping from his perch into the -2 degree water.
The truth is, Charlie, just like everyone else who didn’t make it into a lifeboat, should have died. But he didn’t. He splashed around the North Atlantic for two hours, until a rescue boat arrived and plucked him out of the black, icy sea with little more than two swollen feet. And so Charles Joughin, the baker, stepped into history as – the very last person to abandon the Titanic.
Charlie’s survival is put down to all the alcohol he had in him. “It was a body full of booze”they say, that kept him alive, thinning out his blood to the point where hypothermia was kept at bay. And many doctors agree it may have well been the liquor that kept him alive, but not for what it did for him physically. (inside)Yes, alcohol does initially result in an inner sensation of warmth, but that temporary heat will soon dissipate. Instead, physicians say, alcohol can cause an initial calming effect on the nerves, settling down an otherwise panic within. And so it is more likely that the latter was responsible for Mr. Joughin’s survival.
And what is the biblical response to all of this? Should a Christian do the same in similar situations, drowning one’s sorrows from the local liquor store?
Surprisingly, the Old Testament answer might be, yes. (Although there is some debate as to whether or not the following is said poetically of those in the world.) Proverbs. 31:6.7 – Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
But the New Testament response is totally different. When Jesus faced the greatest crisis anyone would ever face, they offered him wine, but he refused it. Mark 15:22-23 – And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
The bottom line? In the great struggles of life, the born-again believer turns to the Spirit, not the spirits.