I sat up late last night, reading, as I usually do when the house is quiet and I can turn on one light to push the darkness back just a bit, enough to sustain my eyes and make me focus. I liken the feeling to stepping onto the yoga mat, where all I’m concerned about is the entirety of the mat’s space. Nothing more, and not one thing less.

Last night, I read about the Miracle at Dunkirk. I’m sure I read this in school, but it never resonated the way it does now, and all because of three words.

Picture: In early 1940, the British and their Allies, some 350,000 troops, fought Nazi Germany across lowland Europe, and the Germans pushed them back to the small town of Dunkirk in northern France, six miles from Belgium, where they were surrounded on three sides by the Germans, with their backs to the English Channel. For some reason, which is still disputed, a halt order was given by Hitler.

The world waited with bated breath for the onslaught. Meanwhile, the besieged army sent a telegraphed message out that simply read, “But if not.”

But if not. These three words are a reference to the Biblical book of Daniel, where Daniel’s three friends chose death rather than to bow down to the King’s golden idol. The king told them they would be thrown into the furnace for not bowing and they replied, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18). A Barrier and a Path post

“But if not” sent a clear message that, even in what looked like defeat, the besieged troops were victorious. They would not give in. These three words resonated with the British people, and they felt impelled to act. A British friend of mine, and a veteran of WWII, tells me that the people of her country look at water differently, that what looks like a wet barrier to others is a path for the British. After “But if not,” Operation Dynamo was announced to the British public to rescue the Allied soldiers. Civilians banded together in a dockyard, launched their own small boats, and headed into the treacherous English Channel. Reportedly, more than 700 boats were launched by anybody who had one, and they rescued more than 338,000 troops in what historians call the Miracle of Dunkirk.

Three words, and a miracle.

What are your three words today?

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing