That was the question a friend asked me recently as we talked about the miracle of 33 miners surviving 70 days trapped underground in a collapsed copper mine in Chile.
Once communication with the miners was established and food made available through a small shaft only inches in diameter, it was no longer a question of physical survival but of emotional survival. Since hearing of the mind disaster I’d already asked myself the question. Trapped and isolated in the confines of a sealed mine nearly a mile beneath the earth’s surface and knowing my chances of rescue were slim, could I survive without literally losing my mind?
Given what we now know took place during those 70 days in the miners’ underground camp, I believe I could, and so could you! As I’ve pondered their amazing story, I’ve identified four factors, apart from adequate food and water, that insured their emotional survival. These factors are essential not only for the survival of miners caught in a trapped mine, but ordinary people like you and me who may face circumstances in our lives equally devastating and beyond our control: the tragic death of a loved one, the loss of a career or a relationship, the unhealed scars of an abusive past, the unrelenting power of an addiction, and the list goes on.
Inventory time! Do you have the Chilean miners’ 4 survival factors in your life?
They had daily structure and routine.
Even though the miners were cut off from the sun, they quickly established a night/day routine using artificial lights that included regular periods of sleep and activity. They were not allowed to stay on their cots if they didn’t feel like getting up. Adhering to a daily schedule that included exercise was required of them all. They stuck to the structure and routine even when they didn’t feel like it!
They had a daily purpose.
From food distribution to communicating with the outside world, every man knew when he got up in the morning what was expected of him and what the fulfillment of those responsibilities contributed to his survival and the survival of others. They lived each day purposefully!
They lived in community.
The miners realized that if they were to survive, they had to depend on and trust one another. They became vulnerable and transparent, sharing their hopes, fears, and dreams with each other. Isolating in their emotional pain and distress was not an option. They got real!
They had authority.
Early on leaders were identified to which they all looked for guidance in key areas. Submission to this authority was essential. No man relied solely on his own wisdom. More importantly, through daily prayer and meditation, they recognized that God, their ultimate Authority, was in the end their only real hope of ever again seeing the light of day. They had a working faith!
Perhaps you feel trapped in a personal “collapsed mine” at this time in your life, with little hope of escape. If so, be encouraged. As you begin to include the above factors in your daily life, I have little doubt that in time you will emerge, like those miners, to the joyful dawn of a new day and season!
Bob Barrows, New Directions Life Management