A friend that I’ve known since the first grade recently responded to a blog I’d written. In the blog, I acknowledged that I had gotten into trouble with my son for allowing Jake, my grandson (age six) to drive the car, sitting in my lap, from our gate to our house without the use of a seatbelt.
In some respects my son, Craig, is very much like his mother regarding organization, structure, accountability and the need to stay the course on any plan of action. Variation is not a concept that comes easily for either. Consequently, when you understand the importance of safety and you teach your children from their earliest memory that “wheels don’t move until everyone has their seatbelt locked in place”, I agree that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Granddad to subsequently say, “We don’t need a seatbelt to get from our gate to the house.”
Once gently redirected for the error of my ways, I understand the need for a “No Exception Policy” regarding seat belts. I get it. I understand it. I applaud it. I was wrong. Either that or I should never have told my son what we had done.
My friend responded to my confession by suggesting: “You could haul the grand kids back and forth from your house to the gate in the back of your pickup. I have fond memories of riding in the bed of my grandfather’s 56 Chevy”. He went on to write, “When my grandson was little, I let him ride in the back from our house to one down the street. I had my eye on him the whole time and we could have walked faster than I drove. It was a distance of about half a block. His Mama said, “Never again!”
I have the same kind of memories associated to riding in the back of my grandfather’s 55 Chevy. We’d stand up and hold on to the head-rack while he drove 50 mph. Obviously our guardian angels were working overtime or we wouldn’t still be here. I’d be horrified for my grandkids to stand up in the back of a pick up truck and hang on for dear life.
My friend wrote back, “Don, We live in a different world than we grew up in. Watch it change daily. Too much of it, I don’t understand.” I immediately identified with his observation. Obviously, his response carried with it the ring of something much broader than building memories with grandchildren. In fact over the past two to three weeks, I’ve thought of his summation many times.
“We live in a different world than we grew up in. Watch it change daily. Too much of it, I don’t understand.” Is that true for you as well? Over this past week, I’ve toyed with the question, “Was the world really different during my childhood years or was it simply my perception that it was different?” I’m not suggesting it was all “smoke and mirrors”, but at some level, I don’t recall a time that our problems haven’t been beyond us.
Fifty years ago, Billy Graham wrote a book entitled World Aflame. Fifty years ago? I didn’t make that up. I was a freshman in college. I still have the book. In the introduction to his book he wrote this:
“At 5:30 A.M. on July 16, 1945, a light brighter than a thousand suns illuminated the desert sands of New Mexico. One scientist who was watching wept. ‘My God,’ he exclaimed, ‘we have created hell.’ From that day on our world has not been the same. We entered a new era of history — perhaps the last era.
It was the next month that the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.
Of his book, Billy Graham wrote: “Our world is on fire, and man without God will never be able to control the flames. The demons of hell have been let loose. The fires of passion, greed, hate, and lust are sweeping the world. We seem to be plunging madly toward Armageddon.
“Over and over we ask ourselves, Why? What is the cause? What has happened to our world? Can we do anything about it?
“Not long before he was killed in a plane crash, I visited with Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld in his office at the United Nations. He seemed deeply depressed during our conversation. Looking from his window across New York he said quietly: “I see no hope for permanent world peace. We have tried so hard and we have failed so miserably.” Then he paused a moment, looked at me, and said: “Unless the world has a spiritual rebirth within the next few years, civilization is doomed.”
War and rumors of war – Isn’t the bottom-line always a Spiritual issue? “Hammarskjold got it right, “Unless the world has a spiritual rebirth within the next few years, civilization is doomed.” As a nation we have been involved in a war on terrorism for the past fourteen years. While it is true that oppression and threat seems to come from a multiple of different sources, isn’t it also true that we have swept a lot of dirt under our own rug?
At some level, as a nation, a state and perhaps even as a community, we are a warring people. When others are treated with something other than civility and respect, isn’t that the first step in polarization and coming at odds? A house divided cannot stand. It never has and it never will.
Take the Civil War for example. 625,000 Americans were killed. 625,000 Americans were killed by Americans. In contrast, 405,399 Americans were killed in WWII which ranks the second in American casualties. There were 36,516 in Korea and 58,209 in Vietnam. If casualty counts ultimately matter most, we historically have been our own greatest enemy. Perhaps we still are. It defies explanation.
The thing that I find both perplexing and disheartening about the Civil War is that we did it to ourselves. I can’t even begin to comprehend how anyone could have justified the methodology. All across our nation, towns and communities were filled with churches. It was true in the North. It was true in the South. The family of faith, the people of God, choosing “ a might makes right” methodology for conflict resolution rather than His to resolve conflict and settle differences is very sad.
There are days when I wonder how far we’ve really come. I don’t sense a lot that falls under the auspices of unconditional love. That, too, is sad indeed.
All My Best