A few weeks ago, I spent one week with my eighth-grade son on the proverbial eighth-grade Washington, D.C., trip. There were so many middle schoolers congregated, from Williamsburg to Jamestown to Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg to Philadelphia, all taking in American history. It was a whirlwind tour filled with stories of sacrifice, suffering, war—lots of war—and robust resilience to pass on the American dream from one generation to the next. I pray the kids fully grasped the gift of living in our great country. I think they do.
The trip filled me with two strong emotions–gratitude and urgency.
The American story could have gone in a different direction at so many points in history. Yet, it is so evident that God’s hand has guided us. It is also evident our U.S.A. founders, sinful as they were, recognized the need for God to guide us. Prayer was a natural part of the culture. How time changes things.
Many lament how far our country has “fallen” in this post-Christian culture. A part of me
does as well. Yet, we can only fall because the Lord had raised us up so high as a type of “city on a hill.” I pray we recognize where we came from as Christian Americans, and I pray for the Lord to lead us to repentance and dependence upon Him. Our churches have a strong role in leading God’s people to gratitude—gratitude for what God has given us by faith in Christ; gratitude for the blessings of living in our country. God bless the United States of America.
My second overwhelming emotion was…
Why? My time is short. Death surrounded the entire Washington, D.C., experience.
On the first day in D.C., we visited the World War II Memorial, Holocaust Memorial Museum, 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Iwo Jima Memorial. It was our “day of death.” The kids talked about their “highs and lows” at the end of the night. Almost all of them mentioned the heaviness of the day as their low. Yeah. It was super heavy. Death is heavy.
Presidents and leaders have come and gone. Graves surrounded presidential estates. Tourists walking where dignitaries had dined. Their life was but a breath. Here today, and gone tomorrow. The memory of some continues on. Their stories of leadership and heroism inspire generations to come. Yet, visiting so many memorials and battle sites of death left me thinking about the average soldier.
Soldiers from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam took many unknown soldiers. They served and died for their country, but no one alive today remembers them. (Sidenote: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery is certainly worth visiting!) They did their job for God and country with little to no recognition after death.
This led to serious contemplation. Why am I pastoring, preaching, teaching, counseling, baptizing, and burying? Why am I leading, podcasting, and blogging? Why am I trying to do small things to display the need for the church to collaborate and innovate? Why should I even press forward when, most likely, no one will remember my name in one hundred years? It is very likely that I’ll die and, within two to three generations, no one will visit my grave nor remember my name.
You’re welcome for the uplifting blog.
Why do I even live if I’ll not be remembered? Because this life is not about me—it is all about Jesus! I want to run the race of faith marked out for me so that more and more people are drawn to the crucified and risen Jesus. Period. Everything else is fool's gold. I have urgency toward one end—His end.
This may sound all “Jesusy.” That is not my intention. This is simply my heart. I remember
being a young teen with most of my life ahead of me. Death seemed so far away. I fell in love with history early in my life. History has always given me perspective. Now, I’m a middle-aged man likely with more life behind me than ahead. Maybe you can relate.
The question is—how are you going to live the rest of your “dash” on your tombstone? Few people walk through cemeteries today. That is a shame. We should. Look at all of the dashes.
I want to live my dash with robust gratitude for all Jesus has done for me as a Christian blessed to live in the U.S.A. I also want to live with robust urgency to declare Jesus as King and Lord and raise up others to do the same, long after my spirit is in paradise awaiting the resurrection. I pray you want to do the same.
Your time is short.
If the ULC can help you and your church make the most of your “dash” toward eternity please let us know at uniteleadership.org.