Crocodile Click-Bait

In the early afternoon hours of August 25, 2010, a Let L-410 passenger aircraft owned and operated by Democratic Republic of the Congo airline company Filair was on its final approach to Bandundu Airport when a crocodile illegally smuggled aboard escaped inside the passenger’s compartment, causing the flight attendant and the passengers to rush to the front of the aircraft. The sudden shift in the plane’s center of gravity caused the pilot to lose control and the plane crashed into a house just .6 mile from the airport, killing 20 of the people aboard. 

 

There were only two survivors –one passenger and the crocodile. 

 

I found this story on one of the many click-bait pop-ups that frequent my social media news feed. It was among the “news items” in an article called “Freaky Deaths: 19 Bizarre Ways That People Have Kicked the Bucket.”

 

Now, I could launch into a lengthy tirade about sensational journalism and how this type of story panders to the morbid and shady sides of my character, but let me ask you a question first, dear readers:

 

When you read that first paragraph, how big was the crocodile? 

 

The part I left out in that opening paragraph was that the reptile in question was smuggled aboard inside a carry-on bag. (Either a duffel bag or “large sports bag” depending on the source.)

 

When I first read this story, the picture of the crocodile inside my head was at least six to eight feet long and I certainly pictured a mature, adult crocodile. 

 

Not so. In the dozens and dozens of news stories I found on this incident, not one listed any physical dimensions for the animal –although one in an Ethiopian language did refer to it as “a small crocodile.”

 

We do know that it was dispatched at the crash site with a machete, so obviously this was not the life-threatening, person-eating behemoth that popped into my head when I first read about it.

 

Not only does this tell us something about how modern “journalism” works, it’s also a great example of how our brains work in this broken and messed-up world. 

 

It’ so easy to inflate the size and severity of what I perceive as “problems” in my life. Instead of fending off the juvenile crocodiles that have escaped their duffel bags just as the plane is landing with a travel pillow or a seat cushion –and usher it out the door once the plan is safely on the ground– I am just as likely to stampede the cockpit of the aircraft in abject terror as the next guy. 

 

The horrible part of that scenario is that panic like that is contagious, and the next thing you know, everybody is in the cockpit screaming and the plane goes into an uncontrollable nose-dive. 

 

Even worse, (and to strain the metaphor to its utmost) the crocodile that caused all the commotion in the first place usually survives. 

 

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem in 1910 called “If” which said if you can remain calm and unflappable in the midst of chaos, the Earth and everything in it will be yours and you’ll be a Man. (It was 1910. Women weren’t even allowed to vote.) Just 12 years later (after women had successfully won the right to vote) someone parodied the Kipling poem with the line, “If you can keep your head when all those around you are losing theirs, you probably don’t fully understand the situation.” 

 

But Jesus does allow us to fully understand the situation. No matter what happens, Jesus is LORD –just like it says on the Kinship Radio tower in giant red letters. Jesus is the one who calms the storm. Jesus is the one in whom and for whom and through whom all things are created and live and move and have their being.

 

When the storm came up on Galilee and the disciples in that boat were sure they were going to die, four of those disciples were fishermen who were voicing a valid concern based on years of professional experience. These were not the hysterical rantings of people who didn’t know what they were talking about. They were absolutely qualified to make that assessment. They fully understood the situation. 

 

But Jesus woke up from His slumber, and brought the wind and the waves to a great calm simply by speaking, ‘Silence! Be still.” And then, He turned to His disciples, who I am absolutely certain were standing there with their mouths hanging open and, 

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:40 (NIV)

 

And there was not a crocodile to be seen anywhere.

 

Today’s Praise

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” Mark 4:41 (NLT)

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