by David Sisler

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'" Those famous words written by John Greenleaf Whittier, have a fascinating appeal for most of us. Somewhere in each of our lives is an "if only."

My most unusual rejection notice was from an editor who simply said, "If only I'd received this article last week. It would have been perfect in the issue I just sent to press."

Arguably, one of the most important inventions in history was the telephone. In 1875, while experimenting with the idea of transmitting speech by electrical means, Alexander Graham Bell discovered the basic principle that made the telephone possible. The next year, on March 7, 1876, Elisha Gray of Oberlin, Ohio, applied for a patent for a telephone – two hours after Bell patented his invention! If only.

Jeffrey Hunter was an accomplished actor who was only 41-years-old when he died. He played Jesus Christ in the 1961 movie, "King of Kings." He appeared in the first episode of TV's "The FBI." He also played a starship captain in a pilot for a proposed series which NBC turned down on first viewing. The character of Christopher Pike would later be changed to James T. Kirk and William Shatner would then gain world wide fame as the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

When NBC did not like the first pilot, "The Cage," and therefore did not buy Star Trek, Hunter went on to other roles. In early 1969 he was filming on location in Spain when an accidental explosion on the set caused head injuries. Dizzy spells followed and Hunter returned home. A few days later he was found unconscious at the foot of a stairway in his home. He had apparently suffered another dizzy spell, stumbled, and fell all the way down. Emergency brain surgery was unsuccessful and Jeffrey Hunter died.

As every "Trekker" knows, Star Trek was purchased after a second pilot was produced and then ran for three years. The final episode aired after Jeffrey Hunter died. Had he remained with Star Trek for the three years it ran, he would not have been in Spain making a movie in early 1969. If only.

If only insurance executive Walter Kaye had not arranged for a White House internship for a young woman named Monica Lewinsky.

If only skipper Joseph Hazelwood had been paying attention when his tanker, the Exxon Valdez, entered Prince William Sound.

If only Andrew Carnegie and his friends had maintained the dam at the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, the dam upriver from Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

If only John F. Parker, the bodyguard assigned to Abraham Lincoln during a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater had stayed at his post instead of slipping out to a saloon and leaving the president unprotected.

At age 76, Henry Fonda made this observation about himself: "I've been married five times and I'm ashamed of myself. My life has been peppered with suicides – (two of his former wives) – and I don't like to look back at them. I don't like myself. I never have. People mix me up with the roles I play." If only.

Go from that assessment of one man's life, by himself, to that of another man. You're familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba – how Israel's king committed adultery and then murder. Because of David's failure, the name of God was blasphemed throughout Israel.

"If only" was probably high on the list of things David said to himself: "If only I'd have been with my troops where the king should have been. If only I'd have stopped with the first look and not progressed to lust. If only I hadn't sent the order to kill Bathsheba's husband."

Having sunk that low, David could have spent the rest of his life moaning his condition. He could have gathered crowd after crowd and told them, "You should have seen me when. Oh, the man I could have been." Instead he cried out to God, "If you wanted burnt offerings and sacrifices, I would have given them to you. But that was not what you required. What you want is a willing spirit. You will not reject a heart that is broken and sorry for its sin."

When Fred C. Davidson was president of the University of Georgia, he gave a prophetic message to a class of graduating seniors. "Why do we continue to grope for some method by which every person can be declared a success?" he asked. "Why do we do this even if the end result is a lowering of standards to a point where almost everyone is, in fact, a failure?"

God has one standard for success. He has never lowered it. That standard takes people who are failures, miserable failures, and gives them personal, inside, success. The promise is yours. If only you respond. If only.


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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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