What Will Be Remembered

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Although FDR rightly described it as a day that would live in infamy, my mother, being 21 years of age, said to herself, “Ugh! War! Well, I will pay it no attention at all,” and set her mind to ignore it completely.

That worked for one day.glennandmarymilitarymarriage

On December 8, 1941, my father and mother met.

They fell in love and Dad was drafted to serve in the European Theater.

On December 12, 1942, just over a year later, they married.

The war Mom had resolved to ignore turned out to be the focus of her attention.

On October 16, 1944, Dad was wounded on the battlefield and had to be evacuated to England, and then returned home to the farm near Brookville, where he and mom lived a good life until he died in 2001.

It’s strange to imagine that one day people will regard these events in much the same way as I regard World War I or The War of 1812 — mere historic events, void of personal connection. It’s strange. Kind of sad. And a bit sobering.

We like to think that the memories of our loved ones will live on in the course of human history, but, as someone has rightly observed, our great-grandchildren will probably know nothing about us much beyond our names. Any knowledge beyond that will be merely trivial and quite impersonal. And choosing to ignore this reality is no more realistic than a 21-year-old choosing to ignore World War II.

But there is an event in human history that never fades and always remains personal. It’s the Advent of the Christ Child. This event — this divine life — is as personal to you and me as we want it to be. It can be as personal to us as it was to those who witnessed it firsthand, because what Jesus offers is a relationship with himself — the Risen King, the Living God.

On the wall of their home, Dad and Mom had a plaque that contained these words: Only one life; ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

It’s good to recall days that live in infamy. It’s important to study human history. But here’s something I constantly remember — what lasts throughout eternity has Christ at the center.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.
Always work enthusiastically for the Lord,
for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT).

Swimming Against the Current

Driving the babysitter home she said something that made me feel old. It was only 1990 and I was only 29 years old, but her words made me realize how quickly time was passing.

“In history, we are studying the counter-cultural revolution,” she said. Not wanting to appear as clueless as I was, I replied, “Really — what are some other names for that?” She said, “My dad calls it the hippy movement. You know, the sixties.” Now, I was just a prepubescent kid in the sixties, but I was alive. And I was struck by two things: First, that a period of my life was now considered fodder for tenth-grade history teachers, and second, that the hippies had a name that made them sound quite impressive: counter-culturalists.

The Little Falls at Toccoa

Counter-culturalists. I think it’s a safe bet to say they show up in history books more than any other kind of person. Why? Because counter-culturalists make history. Whether it’s Socrates corrupting the youth of Athens, or John Hancock signing his name boldly enough that the king could read it without his spectacles, or Teddy Roosevelt riding his horse through what later became known as D.C.’s Rock Creek Park with pistols firing, or a group of college dropouts in a VW van with a peace-sign painted on it — people who make an impact, good or bad, are people who swim against the current.

So Laurel and I are sitting on a rock watching the family climb up “The Little Falls” and she recounts a story of someone criticizing a church for “accepting just anybody”. The suggested criteria is irrelevant, but Laurel’s friend was distressed because this church was not discriminating regarding the cleanliness, clothing, intelligence, social status, race, marital status, relationship status, sexuality, addictions, or biblical literacy of those it was allowing to come and worship. As Laurel told me the story, I remarked, “What we are doing at Curwensville Alliance is like trying to swim up these falls.” Laurel nodded quietly.

It is. We are swimming against the current, pushing against religious wisdom, countering the culture. And it’s a challenge. But isn’t that what makes history, not just in the secular world, but in the spiritual world?

  • God pushed Moses into pressing against the culture.
  • Samuel, anointing a shepherd boy while Saul was still on the throne — that’s pressing against political norms.
  • Elijah calling out the prophets of Baal — that’s a little out of the ordinary, pressing some buttons of people like Jezebel.
  • And Jesus… Yeah…. Jesus…. He was all about violating cultural norms, whether they were regarding prostitution or propriety in worship, Jesus made history by pressing against the religious culture — a religious culture that grew from what he had decreed centuries earlier through men like Moses.

At CvilleAlliance we are swimming upstream. But that which floats downstream is generally lost and forgotten. It’s not that we want to be remembered in history. I really couldn’t care less about whether I am remembered a generation from now. And that’s probably good — because I will not be remembered. Can you name your great-grandfather’s favorite Bible verse? I didn’t think so. We’ll almost certainly be forgotten by those who come later, most likely within two generations.

But what we do as we swim upstream can have impact that will change history — and in that sense, while our names will be forgotten by this world, the difference we make will influence all eternity.

In the words of Josh in his message today (2/10/2013), Press On!