As we sat enjoying the evening breeze and shooing flies from our Mexican food, her words hit home. We were talking about where our lives were at this point. She was honestly admitting personal discouragement and disappointment. “It wasn’t supposed to look like this,” she reluctantly admitted with a wave of her hand. I understood. Many times we work toward one goal, or pursue a particular dream or vision, only to end up finding ourselves somewhere that looks and feels quite different.
It reminded me of one particular person who spent years of preparation for one vocation only to end up doing something completely different. Interestingly, he became famous as a result.
His name was Samuel. All he wanted was to be a painter. And he actually managed by midlife to accomplish that dream. For a short time, he was able to make a living at it. But it didn’t quite work out like he’d truly envisioned or planned when it was all said and done. During his lifetime, it was difficult to make a living as an artist in America. If that wasn’t enough, crises hit. His wife died; then his mother and father also died soon after. Filled with grief, he withdrew to Europe to paint and reflect on his life.
On his return trip home, while aboard ship, he found himself in discussions at dinner about new experiments in electromagnetism. Apparently, as the story goes, Sam made the following comment, “If the presence of electricity can be made visible in any part of the circuit, I see no reason why intelligence may not be transmitted by electricity.” His creative mind still spinning, he retired to his room to solve this new equation. His attempts and endeavors upon arriving home, however, didn’t prove successful. He once wrote:
“The only gleam of hope, and I cannot underrate it, is from confidence in God. When I look upward it calms any apprehension for the future, and I seem to hear a voice saying: ‘If I clothe the lilies of the field, shall I not also clothe you?’ Here is my strong confidence, and I will wait patiently for the direction of Providence.”
Soon after he wrote those words, he received a wonderful surprise. One day, in 1843 he approached Congress one last time. They had continuously called his ideas ridiculous. However, on the last night of the Congressional session, Samuel B. Morse made one final attempt. Then, resigned to the fact he’d given it his best shot, he went to bed tired and disgusted. In the morning, however, he was told that a few minutes before midnight Congress had awarded him $30,000 to construct a telegraphic line between Baltimore and Washington!
Within a year the line was established, and Morse received the amazing honor of tapping out the first message by telegraph. But what message would he send? After some thought, he chose an Old Testament passage found in Numbers 23:23 of the Bible: “What hath God wrought!” To him, it said it all.
Had his wife and parents not died, had he not gone to Europe, had his artistic dreams succeeded as he’d dreamed and planned, the world would never have experienced the telegraph. And the rest, as they say, is technological history. But oh, how differently it could have been written.
Perhaps you are experiencing setbacks and disappointments. Maybe your projects are lacking funding. Will you, as did Mr. Morse, “…wait patiently for the direction of Providence”?
Morse went on to create several other inventions and is often recognized today as the father of faxes, modems, e-mail, the internet and other electronic communication. All I can say is, “Wow.”
It seems worth asking the question: should we allow the interruptions and discouraging moments to get the best of us? It is possible, that perhaps, in them alone, lies the spark that will light the fire for the best that is truly yet to come.
Just my thoughts.