On Sinking Ships

By a wide margin, the highest grossing motion picture of all time is Titanic. Well, that makes sense. It is really two movies in one— a mushy love story sandwiched inside a disaster flick, a soap opera with a body count. It is the story of Jack, a fun-loving, self-absorbed penniless artist and Rose, a sad, suicidal socialite who is being forced to marry a man whom she did not love. These two people are about as different as night and day, but the boy from steerage accidentally meets the girl from the first class, and they fall immediately and deeply in love. Unfortunately, they don’t live happily ever after; after all, this is the Titanic. During the sinking of the great ship, Jack dies so that Rose can live.

Marc Newman uses the movie Titanic to make a point to college students about the nature of true love. The question Newman asks his students to debate in class is this— “Given what we know of Jack’s character, do you think that he and Rose would have had a successful marriage?”

When push came to shove, Jack was able to make the single grand gesture to the beautiful woman, and give his life that Rose might have a chance to live. But could Jack, would Jack, have married Rose? And if so, could he have put up with the daily self-denials that are required to maintain a marriage over fifty years, when his lover is no longer young and nubile? G.K. Chesterton commented that many people say that they will do anything for love, except sacrifice for it.

Is it possible that dying for the one you love in a blaze of glory is not nearly as difficult as living and sacrificing for them daily? I think Newman is on to something there. The greatest barrier we face in our relationships in marriage, in the church and with God is the daily grind, the ongoing continuing sacrifice of bending and yielding our wills to that of another. The reason so many relationships are sinking ships is that we refuse to really die to self.