No Man Is An Island

I was at a school where being the owner of a musical instrument elevated your social standing and guaranteed a coveted place in the orchestra. The favoured instrument of the day was a recorder (a woodwind instrument from the flute family) because it was relatively inexpensive yet required skill and ability to master. A cacophony of sounds would emanate from the music room as well-heeled girls with crisply ironed uniforms and shiny pigtails practised together. Those of us who were excluded from this coterie took solace in each other’s company and pretended not to care. Until the day one of our group broke rank and transformed her fortunes overnight, by becoming the proud owner of a recorder.

As we lived on the same Victorian terraced street, I had to endure the torment of hearing her practice every day. Eventually I could bear it no longer and implored my parents to follow the precedent set by a member of our community. This was usually a persuasive argument amongst immigrants who took their cue from each other. But my parents were unmoved and in desperation I prayed to God because I’d been raised to believe all things were possible with God. Yet still nothing happened. Until the day I returned home from school to find my father waiting for me with a bansuri – an ancient side blown flute made from bamboo, originating in the Indian subcontinent. Knowing my disappointment about the recorder, he’d arranged for an uncle to bring the bansuri from Pakistan, believing it to be a suitable substitute. Naturally, I never had the heart to correct his misconception.

When we’re caught in the web of what we want; we think only of ourselves. We don’t consider the impact on others. John Donne wrote, “No man is an island”, to remind us that we don’t stand alone and need each other to survive. I was born into a family where there was no concept of individualism. We were part of a whole and whatever was best for the whole was best for the individual. Although I initially resisted this philosophy, I eventually came to my senses and live by it today. We’re all connected to each other – whether it’s family, friends or the wider community. Whatever we do will impact those around us. If I decide to move to New York for a high-powered job, it may gratify my ego, but what impact will it have on my family? Will I in time regret the milestones I missed because of geography and high office? After all, life is so much greater than a job. But these conundrums can’t be explored when tantalising horizons beckon and decisions are pressing.

I was once single-minded about life and refused to let anything stand in my way. But I noticed that no matter how hard I tried, things often didn’t go my way. I eventually realised that the obstruction in my path was God. Not a spoilsport or party pooper God. But a loving God who was saving me from myself. God knew I would lament the choices I was making and stepped in. It took time to fully appreciate these overtures but now they are my guiding light. I continue to pray for what I want, but I trust God to give me what’s best. What about you? What dreams are you chasing today that you may regret tomorrow? Why not let God be your guiding light – pray for what you want and trust Him to send you what’s best.

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