(This is the 23rd installment of a series of blog entries. You are encouraged to read the series in order, as much of the material in each entry builds on information and illustrations in earlier segments. You can click here to go to Part 1 and start the series.)
Well, the election of 2012 is now over, and many of my Christian friends are very, very unhappy at the outcome. A significant proportion of them seem stressed, even depressed, and fearful what the future holds. I don’t blame them, of course. The difference between them and myself is that I am convinced we Americans would have needed to be every bit as concerned about what the future holds no matter which candidate won. I believe the forces that have been coming together for a long, long time to affect this country are far, far beyond partisan political issues.
And yet—there really are not widespread devastating conditions as yet in most of the country. Just worrisome “trends.” Unless we as Christians are able to come to a sense of inner peace in these relatively “good times,” we are going to be no use to ourselves and others in the bad. I’m suspicious that many of my troubled friends are not really troubled just by “current conditions.” A significant proportion of people who consider themselves Christians seem to be victims of life-long issues of discouragement, doubt, fears, anxiety, and more—totally outside of any added obsession with partisan politics. Given the large number of Bible passages that admonish believers to not worry, to trust God, to have faith in His plans for them, I am also suspicious that this isn’t just a modern affliction. It seems to be a timeless one, touching people in every generation since Jesus walked the Earth in the first century.
So I want to continue to give a bit of advice for ways we as individuals can prepare to be ready to be shelters in the storms of life for others. And my advice in this blog entry is …
But, you may protest (especially if you are one of those whose champion lost the latest presidential election), how can we be optimistic when we see “our country headed to hell in a handbasket”? Or “on the brink of a fiscal cliff” … or whatever other metaphor is popular among much of the populace at the moment?
Do not mistake my use of the term “optimism.” An optimist isn’t someone who thinks only good can ever happen to himself—or his nation. Someone who truly believed that wouldn’t be optimistic—he’d be delusional.
I am using the word optimism to indicate a way of reacting to the challenges of life. It is possible to “assume the worst” when faced with negative circumstances, be convinced that you might as well give up since nothing is going to turn out right now, in the near future, or in the long run. This kind of approach always brings to my mind a picture of a famous character from the Li’l Abner comic strip, Joe Btfsplk.
It wasn’t that Joe was deliberately negative, it was that, as created by Al Capp, his “luck” was so bad that no matter where he showed up, everything went wrong for everyone around him. So people stayed away from him. As the saying goes, he was a “jinx.” As in this cartoon from 1947:
Unfortunately, I’ve known many people who ended up feeling their own life was like this. Not because some external force “willed” bad luck on their lives, but because their attitude was so pessimistic that their life was one long string of “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
This just should not be so for the Christian. Yes, in this life all … including all Christians … will experience bad times as well as good. And you can’t “will” bad times to go away just because they make you uncomfortable. But what you can do is remember all sorts of promises of God that WILL come to pass eventually. One that is a favorite of many is
This tells me that not all things will work out the way I expect them to, especially in the short run. But over my lifetime, and on into eternity, God will make sure that all things will be woven together for my ultimate good.
If you truly have the conviction that God is intimately involved in your life, then no matter what is going on—including national politics and world conditions—you don’t have to obsess on somehow trying to use human methods to intervene… including politically… to force what you think should come to pass. He can weave you into His plans so that you most effectively serve Him and those around you. You can, in short, be totally optimistic that, as the old saying goes, “This too shall pass,” and God will guide your path to a brighter future. That future may be in this life, it may be in the resurrection, but it will come.
With the inner peace that comes from that assurance, you can avoid being one of those who are panicking about whatever current circumstances seem so upsetting. And you may even find that those around you are so comforted by your presence that they will want to know what it is you have, and how they can get it. In other words, exuding inner peace and optimism can be a very effective tool of evangelism.
It is my conviction that part of being prepared for “the unexpected” … an extended period when nothing of big prophetic significance happens, but the world just keeps on with confusing change… is to make sure that you are setting an example for your own family, especially your children and grandchildren if you have them, of godly optimism. This will not just prepare you—it will prepare them.
I am convinced that most people who get swept up into prophetic speculation and/or obsession with somehow trying to “beat back” political trends that are troubling but likely inevitable—don’t pay the attention they should to the influence their obsession has on the development of “inner peace” in their own children. Yes, the parent may know that deep down inside he personally still has confidence that God is actually in control of the future. But unless he has carefully laid the groundwork for his children to have that same confidence, all the child is going to understand is the ranting that they hear from day to day as the parent vents about politics or prophecy. And most of the ranting isn’t going to sound reassuring!
Are you familiar with the term “imprinting”? It’s a psychological term that is particularly applied to animals such as ducks. When a duckling first hatches, it seems to “assume” by instinct that whatever dominant creature is in its immediate area is “momma,” and will begin imprinting on that creature. Since that creature usually IS its momma, there is no problem. But sometimes a momma duck isn’t available.
These little ducklings are obviously convinced this is indeed Momma. Which does work well at their young age. It looks like this dog is tenderly caring for them while they are tiny. Eventually, though, it won’t be cool if they truly try to act like a dog.
There is one slightly humorous side effect of one human version of this issue of imprinting, known as the “Baby Duck Syndrome.” From Wiki:
In human–computer interaction, baby duck syndrome denotes the tendency for computer users to “imprint” on the first system they learn, then judge other systems by their similarity to that first system. The result is that “users generally prefer systems similar to those they learned on and dislike unfamiliar systems.” The issue may present itself relatively early in a computer user’s experience, and has been observed to impede education of students in new software systems.
This is, of course, why first-time Mac owners become Mackies for life!
So what does this have to do with optimism, and prophecy and politics, and related areas of intense obsession that many parents embrace, as it relates to their children?
Just what do we think the attitude of this child toward other races ended up being once he was an adult himself?
This extreme example shows the likely source of most prejudice in all societies—our children learn it very early, by our example. Imprinting on a racist yields a second generation of racists. And so on down through history.
But let’s think this through. WHAT IF I am right in my assertion that Jesus will not be coming any time soon, and that the efforts of Christians obsessed with politics are not going to make any significant change in the pace or direction of developments in the political dynamics of our country? What will happen to children whose parents refuse to face this, and who continue year after year to rant about these things in front of the children, and preach gloom and doom? How much optimism will such children have about their own chances of “having a future”? How equipped will they be to “make the best” of all opportunities that are presented to them by their environment, if they feel that “it’s no use?”
From what I’ve seen, many such parents have a difficult time envisioning how they are affecting their children and grandchildren. They are too close to the situation. So let’s step away from “now” and take a neutral look at another time and place. Perhaps seeing what happened then and there, and how it affected parents and their children, may open some eyes to here and now.
“You Are There: World War 2”
I have been fascinated by WW1 and WW2 “propaganda” posters from the United States and Great Britain for some time, collecting books about them, and setting up my own Pinterest Board on the topic that now has an extensive collection of pics of such posters.
Although I hadn’t studied much about the conditions in England during WW2 in either high school or college history classes, once the Internet was available, I had access to many photos and stories in addition to the propaganda posters.
I knew of course that London and other British cities were devastated by German bombing, and that daily life could be disrupted at any time by German air raids. This meant for some, going into bomb shelters in back yards.
For the majority, it meant seeking refuge in the subway system of London, the Underground. This could be for hours or days, and of course it meant children had to learn to be very flexible.
There were no “holidays” from this danger … here is a child at Christmas time, down below.
In between bombing runs, life went on for children, who literally made their own “playgrounds” among the rubble.
Then there was the danger of gas attacks, so the whole population, babies and children as well as adults, were provided with gas masks and warned to keep them ready for use at all times.
“A special gas helmet was supplied for children less than two years of age; the mothers above are shown how to use it.”
It was almost a year into my fascination with collecting pics of posters and photos of this time period before I first came across this poster and others like it.
I had no clue what situation this was addressing, until I looked it up on the Internet. When I did, I found it mind-boggling. Here is a very personal account by someone who had a family member involved in this situation.
My grandad was born in 1932, which made him around seven years old when World War Two began. The Government in Britain were terrified of a new kind of warfare; organised bombing. The threat of bombing from Nazi Germany was a frightening prospect, and as a safety precaution the evacuation of children, pregnant women and disabled people was introduced. People were moved away from areas of threat, such as the big cities and places close to them, into the countryside, where it was less likely a bombing would take place. My grandad lived very close to the capital and became an evacuee.
Evacuation was introduced for cities in danger of bombing on the last day of August in 1939, and in the space of two days two million people were moved during “Operation Pied Piper”. Children from London, Birmingham, Coventry, Portsmouth, and other places were moved from their homes to live with families in the countryside. They packed up a case with a small amount of clothes, shoes, sandwiches and nuts and were taken by train to new locations. Brothers and sisters were often split up, and children only stayed with their mother if they were under five years of age. Children were given a label to wear at the station, and in most cases had no idea where they were going, how long they would be away and if they would ever see their families again. What a frightening prospect.
When the evacuees had arrived in their new villages, Billeting Officers would arrange new homes with host families for them. The culture clash was significant. The children in the countryside were in much better health than the children from the cities. They also had very different lifestyles. Countryside complaints about the habits of the city children were high and there was a rise in petty crime. Food was scarce, leading to the introduction of rationing (I vaguely remember seeing grandad’s ration book). Toys were also in short supply, as factories were busy making weapons to be used by the serving soldiers in the war.
The evacuated children were still able to go to school. School buildings were shared between the countryside and city children; some children were educated in village halls and public houses. In addition to their normal lessons, children had to learn what to do in an emergency; lessons teaching children how to put on their gas masks and air raid drills were taught alongside the regular curriculum. The air raid sirens rang in different patterns, depending on whether the threat of bombing was coming or going, so children had to learn to tell the difference between them. City children were also taught the skills needed to live in the countryside and were expected to help their host families with the day to day tasks.
It was a difficult adjustment. The people were so different. Host families were sometimes unhappy with the government’s decision to have them house evacuees. Some families were cruel to the children of the city, and resented the children they were forced to look after. Housing an evacuee was not a duty some families wished to fulfill. Many families were happy to help the evacuees, though.
When the threat of bombing decreased in early 1940, the evacuees were able to return home. Evacuation was encouraged twice more during World War Two: in September 1940 London was heavily bombed by the German Air Force during the Blitz; and in 1944 during the V1 and V2 bombings.
I had no clue that all this happened! It was devastating enough to think of children living through the terrifying bombing raids on London in the Underground, held tight by a parent. I have a horrible time getting my mind around the idea of living at that time and having to look at my own small daughter, hand her a tiny suitcase, put a tag on her, and “let her go”—up the steps to a train, not knowing if I’d ever see her again.
The bottom line in all this is… just WHAT should the parents have done back in those days, whether they had to shepherd their children into a nearby subway tunnel as the bombs fell all around, or shepherd them to a train station and wave goodbye? Should they have bemoaned around the house for months ahead of time, “Oh, we are living in the worst of times, and there is no hope for the future!” Looking back from now, with hindsight, we know that wasn’t true, but they sure had every reason to think so at the time. Yet, as Churchill said, they “Never gave up.”
There was an attitude, both there and in the US, that there was great value in embracing a stance of optimism. I suppose maybe most people didn’t always feel it. But I think most were wise enough to realize that it was psychologically healthy for both themselves and their children to aspire to it! The whole culture of the time was one of promoting such optimism in every way possible. You can see this in the music, such as the lyrics of one of the most popular songs of the era. The White Cliffs of Dover was written by two American musicians before the US joined the war.
There’ll be blue birds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
Tomorrow, when the world is free.
The shepherd will tend his sheep,
The valley will bloom again
And Jimmy will go to sleep,
In his own little room again.
There’ll be blue birds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
“(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover” is a popular World War II song made famous by Vera Lynn with her 1942 recording—one of her best known recordings. Written in 1941 by Walter Kent and Nat Burton, the song was also among the most popular Second World War tunes. It was written before America had joined World War II, to lift the spirits of the Allies at a time when Nazi Germany had conquered much of Europe’s area and was bombing Britain. The song was written at a time when British and German aircraft had been fighting over the cliffs of Dover in the Battle of Britain: the song’s lyrics looked towards a time when the war would be over and peace would rule over the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, Britain’s de facto border with the European mainland.
I’d first heard this song when I was a child myself, in the 1950s. I always thought it was poignant, with a pretty tune. But only recently did the significance of the words “Jimmy will go to sleep in his own little room again” hit me. It was speaking about those children sent away from the cities, to live with total strangers!
I planned to include a Youtube clip of the song with this blog entry, and could have chosen to be “authentic” and pick the one by Vera Lynn. But my daughter reminded me of this awesomely beautiful and powerful version from 1966 by the Righteous Brothers. (I have been unable to get this video to “embed,” so please go have a look and come on back to finish this entry.)
Yes, even the music during the darkest days of the War was aimed at exuding optimism. To say nothing of the posters of the time that were posted everywhere—at factories, post offices, store windows, schools, any place where people gathered. Artists worked overtime creating inspirational slogans and iconic pictures to fortify the population with optimism. Like this famous one:
Are we in America living in times as dire as those? Obviously not, although indeed we could be in a matter of years. But if such times do come, just what do you want your children to believe? That they have no future—or that God is in charge of their future? If you fill their minds now with absolutely nothing but gloom and doom regarding politics or prophecy, then they will have nothing to fall back on in their minds and hearts but gloominess. Is that the legacy of “faith” you want them to have? If you don’t start “modeling” optimism for them now, it is going to be too late when they really need it.
Almost everyone with an internet connection has likely seen this young lady from a little Youtube video clip that went viral just before the election on November 6, 2012. (I have been unable to get this video to “embed,” so please go have a look and come on back to finish this entry.)
Without even knowing what was going on in the society, she evidently absorbed enough constant ranting on radio and TV about what I have decided to jointly dub “Bronco Bomney” that it left her in gloominess! And yet she actually appeared to have a parent who wasn’t all that radically dedicated to the political battle. I can’t begin to imagine how gloomy and depressed some young children have been feeling for months…or years…if not just the TV and radio, but the conversation in their home around the dinner table, between their parents in the car, and maybe even coming from the pulpit at church services, has been little but angry tirades about this, that, or the other political leader or situation. OR about speculative prophecy that the ranters were sure was indicating God’s Wrath is about to descend on the nation.
Are you just absolutely convinced that it’s too bad that it might make your kids miserable, but the circumstances in the US are just so awful that you MUST constantly rant in righteous indignation? If so…give it a year or two or three. I believe the fruit of your choice is going to be so rotten that you are going to look back and regret your choice. You may think your ranting is practically “inspired by God.” I think you are wrong.
Your children deserve to be in an environment where they are immersed in the promises of God, in the hope that comes from those promises, and in the optimism that such hope gives the believer. The kind of optimism that allows us to say…
If you do not have that kind of assurance yourself, and are not busily providing it to your family—and getting ready to share it with everyone you come in contact with—you are NOT Prepared for the Unthinkable.