“… Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.”
- “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost (1874–1963), American poet
Not all have as dramatic an encounter with the divine as did Saul on the road between Jerusalem and Damascus. In fact, few likely do.
But there are variations on a common theme. The Almighty moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform (apologies to William Cowper, 1773).
Balaam — no bright light for the prophet, and only the voice of his beast of burden speaking words he could understand. This after the donkey thwarted the plans of Balaam thrice. Some of us are slow learners (I speak not of the animal). Then the eyes of Balaam were opened, and he saw what his donkey had seen — an angel of destruction holding a sword. How much goes on that we, often with figurative scales on our eyes, do not discern?
Jonah — not an easy man to like, and I’m assuming he was given the benefit of the doubt in the short book bearing his name in Holy Writ. The storm on the Mediterranean was no ordinary one. Sailors on the ship bearing Jonah from Joppa to Tarshish recognized this. Their lot casting led them to Jonah, who, despite the tempest within and without, had managed to fall asleep in the hold. When, after Jonah admittedly his culpability and was finally tossed overboard, and the storm abated, some of the sailors became, at least for a time, believers. Might some of us meet some of them someday?
Jonah was nothing if not hard headed. And hardhearted. Another slow learner. In response to supplication from the belly of the great fish wherein he dwelt for three days, he was regurgitated onto dry land. Whereupon he traveled to Nineveh and preached impending destruction. But later he, perched at safe distance, became petulant when Nineveh was not annihilated. With the worm and the gourd, the Almighty had another lesson to teach him.
John Newton — again, a storm at sea (in 1748, off Donegal, Ireland). One that precipitated the transformation of Newton from slave ship captain to prolific hymn writer. But perhaps another slow learner. For, as Newton himself wrote of his being saved from drowning in a sinking ship: “I cannot consider myself to have been a believer in the full sense of the word, until a considerable time afterwards.”
The hereafter may be a place inhabited by once slow learners. That should be a source of comfort for some of us.
Others to consider:
The rich young ruler of the Gospels, who spurned the invitation of the Master to sell his many possessions and follow.
King Agrippa (to Paul: “almost thou persuadest me.”)
Judas (how many parents choose to give their son this forever tainted name?)
The thief on the cross to the left of Jesus on Golgotha (who neither asked for nor was presumably granted entry into the hereafter).
And countless others who chose to ignore the still small voice, the figurative burning bush, the wind in the willows and the fleece.
Instead, they chose the broad way, the one paved with good intentions, and to eat, drink, and cavort, for tomorrow we may die.
John Greenleaf Whittier, in his poem “Maud Muller” (1856) wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen/The saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’”
And so it might have.
For Earthlings, water figures prominently.
The majority of our planet is covered by water.
The majority of our bodies contains water.
One can live about 30+ days without food, but only about 3 days without water.
It is life giving, life sustaining, and life altering.
Yet 1 in 9 people on Earth live without safe water.
One of the saddest days of American Scott Harrison (more below) was when he learned what had happened in a village in Ethiopia, where potable water is transported in pots at considerable effort.
A 13-year-old girl, after walking 8 hours for safe water, fell just before reaching her destination, and the precious water spilled onto the ground.
She wailed, “I can’t go back for water,” and was so mortified she went home and hanged herself.
Scott Harrison is founder and CEO of charity: water.
His recently published (2018) book, “Thirst,” tells his story.
It is worth a read. All net proceeds go to Harrison’s charity.
You can learn more here:
His parents became true believers in his early years, but that did not stop him from pursuing what he thought to be the good life.
Becoming a top nightclub promoter in NYC, he had access to money, beautiful women, and drugs in seemingly endless supply.
What many young men only dream of and would probably be willing to give an eyetooth for.
But then, one day, an epiphany — his variation of the road to Damascus experience. No bright light, no voice. But still, an epiphany.
He realized he was morally bankrupt.
What legacy would he leave?
Would he be, on the radar screen of history, a tiny blip, if that?
He decided to turn his life around.
Do a 180-degree turn and live diametrically opposite.
He sought to volunteer.
After being rejected by a number of NGOs because of his recent lifestyle, he was accepted by one.
He spent 16 months on a hospital ship in West Africa and then in 2006 founded charity: water.
Auteur Spike Lee made a 1989 film called “Do the Right Thing.”
That is all that is asked of any of us.
Which road will we take?
Today, Scott Harrison is CEO of a charity that has funded over 28,000 projects that have led to potable water for over 8.5 million.
Yet there are 663 million more without safe water.
Forgive the pun, but charity: water is just a drop in the bucket of need.
Here is the charity’s website:
Clean Drinking Water for Developing Countries
charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. 100%…
At the end of “Thirst,” Harrison quotes Pope Francis: “A single individual is enough for hope to exist. And that individual can be you. And then there will be another you, and another you, until it turns into an us… and where is an us — there begins a revolution.”
I think Harrison’s parents would be grateful.
Their Prodigal son has, in the fullest sense, come home.