Friday, December 9, 2011

Greater Things

I have recently been chewing through Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard, which is about James Garfield, his would be assasin, Charles Giteau and the events prior to and surrounding this historical episode.

One thing that struck me was some similar, but widely divergent views the two men held.

When Garfield was 16 years old, he wanted to be at sea and took a job on a boat on the Erie canal, the closest he could come to a seafaring life. On one occasion, he plunged into the canal and faced certain death, had it not been for a rope that was hanging over the side of the boat, which he used to painstakingly haul himself to safety. When he reached the top, he discovered the rope was attached to....nothing. It should have plunged into the water when he grabbed it. Instead, a knot had temporarily hung up on something and allowed him to pull himself to safety.

Believing this event was a providential sign that he was meant for bigger and better things, he left the waterborne life and went to school. Plunging himself into his studies, he became renowned as a scholar. he also served with distinction and gathered some fame for his service in the Civil war, and was elected to congress. After years of diligent service and hard work, he won the Republican nomination in 1880 and became the 20th President.

Charles Giteau claimed that in 1873, he was on the ill-fated Steam Boat Narragansett as it collided with another vessel, caught fire and sank. Although his name was not on the list of passengers, he claimed that this brush with death left him with the distinct understanding that God had something great in mind for him.

When great things did not materialize, Giteau grew frustrated and delusional. This led to his anger being directed at the President, Garfield. He considered Garfield's victory due to s speech he gave and believed he deserved to be an ambassador, When this did not materialize, he eventually decided (or was commanded by God) to shoot the president, which he did.

The views of these two men after incidents where they believed they were clearly saved by providence struck me.

One decided that he was destined for greater things and worked hard to prepare himself, to move in that direction and to be ready for, what turned out to be a life of scholarship and service, which eventually led to the Presidency

The other, believing better things were in store for him, waited for them to happen and grew bitter when "great" opportunities did not arise and when circumstances did not happen in his favor.

Perhaps we are destined for greater things. Are we preparing for them, in spite of circumstances and setbacks, or are we waiting for them and growing angry when they do not come quick enough?

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