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His Ways Are Not Our Ways

17 Aug 2023 | Lt. Cmdr. Mike Beasley Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

Abraham Lincoln’s legal career began in an odd way on the banks of the Sangamon River in central Illinois. On the front porch of his little country store, Abraham Lincoln and William Berry, his partner, stood. Business was all gone, and Berry asked, "How much longer can we keep this going?" Lincoln answered, "It looks as if our business has just about winked out." Then he continued, "You know, I wouldn't mind so much if I could just do what I want to do. I want to study law. I wouldn't mind so much if we could sell everything we've got and pay all our bills and have just enough left over to buy one book--Blackstone's Commentary on English Law, but I guess I can't."

A strange-looking wagon was coming up the road. The driver angled it up close to the store porch, then looked at Lincoln and said, "I'm trying to move my family out west, and I'm out of money. I've got a good barrel here that I could sell for fifty cents." Abraham Lincoln's eyes went along the wagon and came to the wife looking at him pleadingly, face thin and emaciated. Lincoln ran his hand into his pocket and took out, according to him, "the last fifty cents I had" and said, "I reckon I could use a good barrel."

 All day long the barrel sat on the porch of that store. Berry kept chiding Lincoln about it. Late in the evening Lincoln walked out and looked down into the barrel. He saw something in the bottom of it, papers that he hadn't noticed before. His long arms went down into the barrel and, as he fumbled around, he hit something solid. He pulled out a book and stood petrified: it was Blackstone's Commentary on English Law.

Lincoln later wrote, "I stood there holding the book and looking up toward the heavens. There came a deep impression on me that God had something for me to do and He was showing he now that I had to get ready for it. Why this miracle otherwise?"

What are we to make of this episode in Lincoln’s life? Coincidence? Providence? I suppose it depends a great deal on how we see the world. It depends on how we see God – Who God is, what God is like, how God interacts with the visible world. Does God have a purpose for us to fulfil? Is God interested in how we spend our days on this planet?

Rather than offer up my answers to those questions, I’ll leave you with a couple more. Who does God want you to be? What does God want you to enjoy? What does God want you to do? Maybe, if we look in a barrel or two, in places we haven’t looked before, we’ll find the answers.

The Chaplain’s Corner covers everything faith related. Facts not attributed are purely the opinion of the writer.