Dr. Fred Alexander, my college roommate, and lifelong friend, chose a career in higher education. It was a close call, because early on he felt the tug of a different calling. As a young Navy Reservist, Fred blew the top off pilot aptitude tests. The U.S. Navy pulled out all the stops to convince him to become a Naval Air Force pilot. He almost did—but didn’t.

What if he had? Well, he wouldn’t have met and married Claudette; there would have been no Joe, Denise, and Beverly, their three remarkable children; and the hundreds of students that were influenced by him wouldn’t have been. Would he have met and married someone else, had different children and contributed to the world in an equally effective way? No way to know.

Think about this: with just an ever-so-slight shift, you could have been a Joe, Denise, or Beverly that never got in the game. Follow me here . . .

Your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaddy planted his boots in Jamestown in the early 1600s. Maybe he bolted England to escape the sheriff. Or perhaps he was a dreamer who decided to run away and join the circus. Or possibly he was a real visionary who saw America as the land of opportunity. Whatever the reason, he ended up in Jamestown.

The girl that became his wife may have been one of the “100 Maides, young and uncorrupt,” sent over in 1619 to get hitched to the Virginia men. The minutes of a meeting of the Virginia Company of London stated: “These woemen if they marry to the publiq Farmours, to be transported at the charges of the Company; If otherwise, then those that takes them to wife to pay the said charges.”

Can you visualize your progenitor grandpa standing on the Jamestown dock, bidding for your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandma? What if he’d bid on and bought someone else? Too bad for you. Just one different husband-wife match-up in the fifteen generations from then till now, and you wouldn’t be here. That only covers the last 400 years. Try calculating it all the way back to Adam, and you’ll blow a circuit.

But here you are—at this specific time, in this specific place, with your specific talents. How are you using this unique life, brought into being under these unique happenings?

The Apostle Paul said that “when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers” (Acts 13:36).

Your thirteen-greats-ago grandparents pulled up their British roots and helped launch things here in America. Were they godly people who served God’s purpose in their generation and made Jamestown a better place? And did each generation that followed them serve God’s purpose and make the place they lived a better place? Likely some did, and some didn’t.

What about you? You can’t serve God’s purpose in your parent’s generation or in your children’s generation; only in your own.

You are here at exactly the time God wanted you to be, equipped with exactly the gifts he wanted you to use to serve his purpose in your generation. Many use God’s gifts of time and talent to serve their own purpose, giving little thought to God’s purpose—a disappointing choice, but one that he allows.

There are many life elements over which you had no control: you didn’t choose your parents, your country of birth, your race, or your generation. But you do choose how you use these endowments—whether to serve your own purpose or the purpose of God.

This prayer that I’ve lifted from The Book of Common Prayer (with minor editing to first person) is one that we would do well to pray at the beginning of each day:

“Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day . . . in all I do, direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.”

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