A friend gave me one of those daily calendars which have a charming picture and a quotation for each day. I saved one that said: "Be a lamp, a lifeboat or a ladder." I love the challenge.
Be a lamp. Sometimes we just need a bit more light to see where we are going or to discern where we are now. Light is one of the most revered of inventive gifts and I can only imagine the first human who struck the spark that lit the flax that fueled the wick that... the rest is history. Did he burn down a hut or two before he got it right? I often imagine him as the clever youngster whose parents were annoyed at his experiments.
Be a lifeboat. It is needed when the floodwaters are so high that no other method of escape is possible. We see lifeboats every spring during flood season, don't we? They are what was missing from that horrendous Korean sea disaster. No boat drill had prepared the passengers for what lay ahead. To be a lifeboat calls for preparedness and courage.
Be a ladder. It's a great image associate with so many concepts: with elopements from second story bedrooms, with cleaning the gutters of a house, with roofers and their tools, with that ladder on which Jacob dreamed angels ascended and descended, shocking Jacob into an awareness of the presence of God.
It is also tied to success, isn't it? With room for only one person at time on a rung, does that mean someone must be knocked aside so that I can go up -- or down? Or must we learn to build broader ladders?
I feel blessed that I don't have to choose to be one or the other, but I do need to be ready to be the lamp, lifeboat or ladder that circumstances calls me to be.
As usual Shakespeare has the word for it in Hamlet: "The readiness is all." So easily said, so difficult to live. Let's give it a try.