By S M Chen, posted 5-25-16 by D Kovacs


“Reflect upon your present blessings – of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”       Charles Dickens (1812-1870)


Long ago, in grade school, I encountered the concept of contrast of good and not-so-good things that can happen, as described in the following chain of events:

A man went for a ride in a biplane in the country.

Fortunately, the plane had seat belts.

Unfortunately, he did not buckle his.

The pilot performed some aerobatic maneuvers.

Fortunately, no one threw up.

Unfortunately, the passenger fell out.

Fortunately, he was wearing a parachute.

Unfortunately, he lacked the presence of mind to deploy it.

Fortunately, there was a haystack in the field below him.

Unfortunately, there was a pitchfork in the middle of the haystack, tines pointing up.

Fortunately, as the man fell, he missed the pitchfork.

Unfortunately, he also missed the haystack.

Life in other ways often conforms to this interplay of point and counterpoint (perhaps one reason some of J. S. Bach’s compositions are deemed so wondrous).

For instance, a mundane example:

I discovered, a couple weeks after delivery, that the lower connection of the long vertical freezer door handle of my new side-by-side refrigerator was loose; I could wriggle it laterally both directions several millimeters. While it was a minor annoyance now, I knew that, with time, it would likely loosen further. Ben Franklin’s adage, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ came to mind. However, I did not think this situation necessarily warranted a service call.

Fortunately, I had been given a user manual.

Unfortunately, nowhere did it address the issue of a loose door handle or how to install/remove the door handle on my specific model. After careful visual and tactile inspection, I could not find a way to tighten or remove the handle.

Fortunately, the unit was under warranty.

Unfortunately, as I learned during a phone discussion with a manufacturer’s representative, the warranty does not include door handles. She was sympathetic but possessed no information beyond what was contained in the user manual. She did offer to send me a new handle, with installation instructions. With gratitude, I assented.

Fortunately, a short time later, upon searching the Internet, I discovered how to remove the handle. I’d tried this maneuver initially, but lacked the confidence to exert requisite removal force out of concern for inducing damage; after watching the short YouTube video, I proceeded with alacrity.

After what turned out to be minor repair, I called back, but the manufacturer’s office was closed; I left a voice message and sent an e-mail.

Unfortunately, the next day I was told the replacement handle had already been shipped.

Fortunately, I thought to call the parts dept., whose contact number was included in the e-mail reply from a different individual. I was able to cancel shipment.

As William Shakespeare wrote, “All’s well that ends well.”

While grace (Eph. 2:8) looms large in the believer’s ethos, I think it also manifests itself in many small ways we often take for granted. Despite life’s aggravations, things could almost always be worse.

“For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth” – Heb. 12:6. If we take the position that all are loved, then it follows that none would be spared chastening, in one form or another, from time to time. While Paul was likely addressing a different, deeper issue of spirituality, I think it not too much of a stretch to apply the text to contemporary life, including its vicissitudes.

It occurs to me that more weighty matters of ultimate concern lend themselves to similar portrayal.

Fortunately, God is all good things. He created not only the universe but also angels.

Unfortunately (at least in the minds of some), in so doing, He created Lucifer.

Fortunately, Lucifer was magnificent.

Unfortunately, Lucifer knew that. A little knowledge truly is a dangerous thing. Mythical Narcissus had nothing over Lucifer. Iniquity, ever a mystery, lodged and grew. Within him the seeds of self-destruction found fertile soil.

Fortunately, heavenly forces for good spoke to him, urging him to reconsider rebellion.

Unfortunately, he did not listen. Rather, like Pharaoh and countless others, he hardened his heart.

Man was created, like all sentient beings, with free will.

Fortunately, God warned our first parents about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Unfortunately, they failed to heed the warning and were cast out of Eden.

Fortunately, a plan had been formulated for the redemption of man.

Unfortunately, Satan, né Lucifer, knew of the plan, and determined to thwart it.

Fortunately, when the fullness of time had come, as had been predicted and promised in Holy Writ, Christ was incarnated on Earth.

Unfortunately, in his attempt to eradicate the Messiah, Herod killed all male infants below age two in the environs of Bethlehem.

Fortunately, Joseph and Mary had fled to Egypt, and Jesus, as a baby, was spared.

Unfortunately, as an adult, He was, without justification and with cruelty, crucified.

Fortunately, mission accomplished, He overcame death and gravity and rose again.

Unfortunately, few will choose to accept His gift and follow the path of Life.

Fortunately, some will.

Unfortunately, the Second Advent has not occurred.

Fortunately, it will. Everyone now living will either die or witness that momentous event.

Unfortunately, for us, time is short and grows shorter with each passing day. As has been observed, for the young, days are often short and years long. For the old, the opposite holds true.

Fortunately, for the Almighty, time has no meaning.

So it seems that what really matters is the terminus of things.

In ‘The Hollow Men’ (1925), poet T. S. Eliot wrote:

“This is the way the world ends

This it the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.”

But that need not be the case.

As William Henley wrote in the 1888 poem “Invictus,” we are the ‘masters of our fate.’

That sober realization induces not a little humility and a profound sense of gratitude.


Sam Chen biopicSam Chen–Just a fellow pilgrim on this pale blue dot in the vast universe, an infinitesimal speck miraculously held in high regard by the Infinite, whose love, mercy and power will ever transcend understanding. Seeking a closer walk and transformative sensory connection – the crack which allows ingress of light; the whispering of the still small voice; the sweet fragrance (floral?) of the divine; the quickening touch of the Spirit.
Attempting to discern the uncommon in the common, the extraordinary in the ordinary, the ineffable in the effable. And grateful for the serendipity of grace encountered at an unexpected time and place.