I want to share an excerpted story from Robert Morris’ “The God I Never Knew” that I have been reflecting on for the past week and a half or so.
“A story is told of a poor man in Eastern Europe in the early nineteen hundreds. The man longed to move himself and his family to the United States in hopes of building a better life. After several years of scrimping and saving, he finally accumulated enough money to purchase a third-class ticket on a large steamship to New York City.
He only had enough money for one ticket. So he and his wife decided he would go ahead of his family, find a job, and as quickly as possible save enough money to bring them all to America to join him.
He spent virtually all his savings on the ticket, leaving him very little for purchasing food on board the ship. Plus, he would need what little money he had left in order to get established once he got the promised land of America. So he bought a wheel of hard cheese and box of crackers to keep him sustained on the twelve-day voyage to the New World.
As his ocean journey began, he carefully rationed his cheese and crackers, making sure he would have enough to carry him through the whole trip. Sometimes during mealtimes, he would look longingly through the windows of the dining rooms where simple but hearty and abundant meals were being served to other passengers. The food looked wonderful, but he comforted himself fin the knowledge that on some future day he would be earning enough money to eat well and feed his family. Then he would slip back to his little stateroom for his ration of cheese.
On the final day of the journey, there was great excitement on board because soon the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island entry point for new immigrants would be in sight. It was a good thing, too, because the man had eaten his final portion of molding cheese and state crackers at noon the previous day. He was hungry.
The man eventually found himself at the railing of the ship, standing beside one of the ship’s stewards. They conversed a bit about the excitement of the arrival. Then the steward asked a question. “I don’t mean to pry, sir. But I noticed that you didn’t take any of your meals with your fellow passengers in the dining hall. I trust we didn’t do anything to offend you.”
“Oh my goodness, no,” the man said. “Everyone has been so gracious. It’s just that I am saving what little money I have left for my expenses getting established in America. I didn’t want to spend money on food.”
The steward’s expression of confusion became one of shock and dismay when the meaning of the man’s words sank in. “Oh, my dear friend!” the steward said. “Did you not know that three meals each day were included in the price of your ticket? We set a place for you at every meal, but you never came!”
Morris concludes the story with the observation, “Of course, the man didn’t know, until it was too late—and the opportunity for blessing and provision on his journey had been forever missed.”
I don’t know about you, but I knew what was coming at about the point when the man had run out of food and found relief in the fact that Ellis Island was going to be coming into view soon. When I realized that it was going to be revealed that food had been included with his ticket all along, my heart grew so heavy. I believe that’s called conviction. How many times have I missed out on the blessings of God because I was too stubborn and wanted to control things my way? This story has surfaced to mind more than a couple times per day the past week or so, and I am certain it is the Holy Spirit reminding me that I don’t want to be that person, looking to myself for answers, for sustenance, for provision that God is more than happy to abundantly supply within His vast means.
This goes along with what Austin talked about in our study of James—dreaming vs. planning. The poor immigrant would look in on the dining experience available on the ship, and instead of inquiring and seizing action, he assumed that he would have to pay a price, and that just didn’t fit into his plan. Instead, he dreamed of the day when he’d finally have enough money to afford that hearty food. Yes, dreaming is an important part of goal-making, but if all we do is dream and assume that one day things will come our way, we will more than likely miss out on God’s provision. God’s blessings, provision, and plan require active listening—one thing I’m definitely still working hard to do.
My question then is, are we feasting our eyes on the marvelous things God has planned for us, and the blessings that he is wanting to provide for us, here and now, or are we so preoccupied and blinded with what we have planned, settling for the moldy cheese and stale crackers that are within our grasp, our own futile provision? What God has planned for each one of us requires choices that we make each step of the way, each day of our lives. Sure, we can choose to not accept God’s blessings and provision for our lives, and still “make it to heaven”—we do it every day. But who, like the poor immigrant, wants to barely “make it”—wouldn’t you rather your journey be a testimony to God’s abundant and unceasing greatness, day in and day out? I encourage you to examine your heart and ask God to reveal to you areas of your life where you’re not leaning on him for support.