Certain moments in life are often unpredictable; especially when we are called upon to make a choice that can impact not only our life, but the lives of others. It is in such moments that we make a decision that marks a turning point, a point of no return.
A single opportunity
I recall several years ago, when I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Long Beach, California. At the time, I was a student in seminary and had just secured an on-campus job; and during my break, I was scrolling through my laptop and realised that the last day of this particular conference was just about to end a few hours after my shift.
At the time, I didn’t have my own car, and knew that in order to make it in time for the last conference session, I had to take two trains, walk a few kilometres, and even if I made it to the conference, I wouldn’t have enough time to purchase a ticket to be admitted in.
However, I decided to give it a try.
I managed to make both trains and get in close proximity to the conference centre, and thankfully, the lady at the conference checkout counter was kind enough to get me a discounted ticket, since it was the last session of the day.
After finding my seat, I realised that I had actually been reading a book by the guest speaker who was taking the session live, and was amazed, after a few minutes, that he began walking towards me!
I grabbed my backpack and politely stood in line, where a small crowd of people had gathered, and eventually worked up enough courage to start a conversation with the speaker, who seemed overjoyed that I had made it to his session.
Several hours later, when I had made it safely back to my apartment, I heard a knock at my door. One of my American friends opened the door, and showing me his phone, exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell me that you were going to meet Francis Chan?”
I smiled, knowing that I had made the right call.
Minding your business
Oftentimes, we are told to take risks, because with greater risk, comes greater reward. I know that in my life, it has certainly been the case. Yet for some, it seems an easier choice simply to stick to the tested, tried and true way of sticking to our comfort zone. This is especially true if we come across an opportunity that seems formidable, and in the end, perhaps wasn’t the right choice.
During the holiday season, I once took an opportunity to take a friend, who was visiting from out of town, to the beach. On the way, he mentioned to me that we should try something different.
“What do you have in mind”, I asked him, expecting him to suggest a place nearby to grab something to eat.
“Let’s go skydiving”!
I thought I had heard him wrong. “Skydiving?”, I exclaimed. “Are you sure?”
“Of course, man, you only live once!”, he said.
That particular day, however, was quite windy, and there were evidently storm clouds gathering. Scrambling for my phone, I decided to humour my friend, and looked up the closest skydiving location.
Sure enough, after talking to the centre staff, they mentioned that the winds were too strong to conduct any skydiving sessions.
Though my friend seemed disappointed, I decided to take him to a nearby location for lunch. Afterwards, we strolled along the beach, and decided to head back to the car. When we were just about to buckle up and pull out of our parking space, I got a call. The guy on the other end of the line sounded breathless. “You guys still want to skydive today? We’ve got one spot left, and the winds have just eased up enough to make it!”
Sure enough, I looked out the window, and it seemed as calm as ever. I looked at my friend, who nodded enthusiastically. We made it to the skydive location just in the nick of time. After getting suited up, we made our way to the plane, and, after a short safety demonstration, were on our way.
Looking out the side of the plane, I noticed that we were climbing above the cloud level. I couldn’t see a thing. I looked at my skydiving instructor, and he nodded, saying, “it’s too late to turn back now!”
Realising that we were about 20,000 feet above sea level, I saw the safety light turn from red, to yellow, to green; and only then, saw the bay door open, and knew that I was going to be the first one out of the plane.
Of course, I had a choice to make. By this point in time, it seemed that time had slowed down, and I decided to ignore the fact that I was mildly acrophobic. I decided to take the plunge.
Stepping out of the plane and into an abyss of rushing air, I have never seen time move so slowly. It was as if all my troubles were floating around me in the expanse above the clouds. For a few seconds, it was just me above it all.
I raised my hands out, and felt the coldness of the clouds as we went through the layer. Seeing the big blue expanse of water below, I looked up to see the sun shining, and the golden sand stretching as far as the eye could see.
At that moment, I knew I had made the choice.
Hope for tomorrow
As time flies on, I am reminded of the opportunities that I have had in the past, and how I seem to have been in the right place, at the right time. More than just a coincidence, I know that it has been a blessing to be given opportunities of a lifetime.
But in such moments, I am also reminded that the best is yet to come.
In Scripture, it says,
“How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you” - Psalm 31:19 (NIV)
The writer says that abundance is a gift; in that our reward for seeking God as a refuge in times of trouble is actually a blessing which is given to us, and at a moment when everyone around us is a witness to it, too.
One of my greatest joys was when I was travelling back from my wedding trip in the city, and my father-in-law called me and said I would be speaking at his church in the village.
At the time, although I appreciated the offer, I had only just got married to his daughter a few days prior, and had embarked on a whirlwind, last-minute trip to the Taj Mahal, scarcely having just made it back into town.
However, I realised that I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to visit her side of the family for several months, as I was due to fly out of the country a few weeks’ afterwards.
Making it on an overnight bus ride, I began preparing for the message I was to deliver, only to realise that I didn’t have a translator! I asked my father-in-law, who mentioned that no one in the village was able to speak English well enough to translate for me, not even himself!
I went back to my room perplexed, and my newly wedded wife came to greet me, smiling. “What are you smiling at”, I asked, confusedly. She beamed at me, exclaiming, “I am your translator!”
Sure enough, come Sunday morning, I preached one of the most animated sermons I had ever preached. After about an hour and a half of preaching, I sat down, only to be greeted by the villagers, bearing garlands, and, a wedding cake!
It was the last time I saw my father-in-law face to face.
Perhaps there are times when we take opportunities for granted; moments in life when we don’t truly understand the gravity of a situation. It may just be that such moments are meant to be, when we are called upon to make the right choices.
Such choices can impact your life, and the life you lead for others to follow.
Joseph Kolapudi's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/joseph-kolapudi.html