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The Horseshoe Nail that Lost a War
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It’s a story that I’ve often related for the sake of emphasizing the importance of even the smallest details in our lives, and to point up the fact that we can never know in advance the consequences of our own actions or inaction.
For want of a horseshoe nail, a horseshoe was lost.
For want of a horseshoe, a horse was lost.
For want of a horse, a rider was lost.
For want of a rider, a message was lost
For want of a message, a battle was lost.
For want of a battle, a war was lost.
For want of a horseshoe nail, a war was lost.
So often it is the seemingly insignificant things that make the difference in life. It is the things that at the time seem inconsequential, but that years later are seen to be the turning points in the course of history.
For example, I read recently of a Sunni teenager who jumped into a river to save the lives of drowning Shiite pilgrims who had fallen off of a bridge in the middle of a panic that started while they were in the midst of a religious festival. Sunni and Shiite tensions have been severe since Iraq’s liberation, yet this boy without thought of those tensions, jumped in the river and was able to pull 6 to safety before himself drowning when he went back for the seventh. He is now being hailed as a hero by both Sunnis and Shiites, and his picture is on display in front of mosques of both religions. Could it be that his self-sacrifice will result in the restoration of the unity of a nation? Could it be that what seems today to be a horseshoe-nail action will tomorrow be seen as a key turning point in Iraq’s future?
The giving of his lunch by the boy in John 6:9 must have seemed about as important to him and to the unbelieving disciples as one single horseshoe nail. Yet placed into the hands of Him who changed the course of eternity with two pieces of wood and 3 nails, it was enough to feed more than 5000.
I wonder how often we fail to see the small things that we do or don’t do as being crucial to someone’s future. Of course, we can never know if or in what way our words and actions might affect what happens to a city or country, or even to the whole world, for it is God who controls the consequences. There have been many horseshoe nails lost that didn’t result in the loss of a war, and there have been many wars lost due to causes that are never fully comprehended.
I’m sure that Adam and Eve never considered that their simple act of eating from the prohibited tree would result in the condition in which we see the world today. At the same time, how many ask “Why did God allow hurricane Katrina?” and never relate it to the horseshoe nail lost in Eden.
I doubt that the message that resulted in Steven’s martyrdom, as perfect as it was, would be seen to be instrumental in reaching the known world through the apostle Paul, were it not for the fact that we know what followed after Acts 7:58.
I have probably been more affected by simple things that, at the time have seemed without import, than by all the “great things” that have made up my life. A “chance” visit to mutual friends and an offer of a ride home afterward; just a horseshoe nail amongst thousands, yet one that has resulted in a marriage of more than 30 years. A simple prayer for God’s leading that resulted in our being in Rosario, Argentina. Horseshoe nails that had the potential to change the future.
I began to think about the horseshoe nail story again recently as the result of a conversation that I had with a friend. Once again, I was impacted with the importance of my thoughts, words, and actions in an arena that goes far beyond what I’m able to see at the time. My prayer is that my horseshoe-nail decisions will be ones that in retrospect will be seen as influencing the winning and not the losing of the war.
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06 Oct 2005
May God always guide our horseshoe nails to impact the intended. And may there always be enough to go around! :)
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