Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

April 2, 2010

Lessons from the Panama Canal

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

As I sat and watched the large ships pass through the Panama Canal, I was struck by the engineering feat of such a canal.  This marvelous accomplishment of connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean is the result of efforts over many years.  The construction of the canal was first attempted in 1880, but abandoned after over 21,000 workers died from malaria, yellow fever, and landslides.  The United States began a second effort, incurring over 5,600 deaths, but succeeded in opening the canal in 1914.  The U.S. controlled the canal until a 1977 treaty in which it was given to Panama. 

There are three sets of locks that make it possible for the ships to cross the approximately 50 miles between the two oceans.  These locks draw water to lift the large vessels some 85 feet above sea level.  Then the locks allow the ships to be lowered to sea level on the other side.  One has to be struck with awe to see those large ships being lifted by the rising water.  Once through a lock, it will move through the canal to the next lock. The trip through the canal will take about 8-10 hours.  As we would travel by train along the canal, it was an amazing sight to see the ocean liners in what appears to be a large river flowing through the jungle.

Most of the time when I have these experiences, there are some lessons for me.  Several thoughts come to me about watching these ships pass through the canal.

Lesson One:  The ability of man to dream and execute such a dream is a monument to man’s determination.  I am always amazed how some people have such a gift.  Such planning and construction is far beyond my finite mind.  Yet, through that, God speaks.  There are challenges that we face that  seem insurmountable to us.  But if there is something that must be accomplished because we sense God’s instructions to us, be assured we can do it!  Nothing is impossible if God is in it!  “Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”  (2 Corinthians 3:5) 

Lesson Two: The benefits to others came because of the sacrifice of many.  So many men died in this project.  Their sacrifice has provided so much for so many.  The ships that pass through the canal save several thousand miles, plus time and resources.  My life is so different because of the giving by others.  I could begin with the giving by my parents, my denomination in providing seminary education, and  those who planted churches and sacrificed that future generations would have a place of worship and service.  As those who have given of themselves for me, I certainly have an obligation to continue the legacy of giving and sacrifice.  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses . . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  (Hebrews 12:1)

Lesson Three: The patience needed in the building of the canal was required when you consider the many years it took for construction.  My focus on patience came when I learned of the long wait of the ships to pass through the canal.  There is often a backup of ships waiting to pass through the canal.  There are times when a ship might have to wait an entire day or more to have its turn in entering the canal.  Imagine the patience of the captain and crew.  It would seem time wasted, but yet the benefit from the delay is worth the wait.  Add to that wait, the time it takes in each lock for the ship to be lifted.  There is certainly a call for patience.  How patient am I?  Most days there is something that hinders my schedule.  Rather than fuss and fume about the delay, I need to calculate the benefit.  I might not always see it, but there is a benefit.  Patience can be such a blessing in our life.  My latest book in my series is on patience.  I write of the blessings and benefits of patience.  I will seek to share much of this with you at some time.  “Patience must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:4)

Never overlook what God can teach us through observation of things around us.  I’m grateful for the lessons from the Panama Canal.



1 Comment »

  1. Lawson, I am enjoying your blogs. Sometimes I have to read several a day. Hope that you and Judy are well, Marion

    Comment by marion mercer — April 12, 2010 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

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