Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: June 11, 2004

evening

Wind came up today, scattered clouds high above blew past. The evening was beautiful, the sun set with an orange glow on the western horizon. But then, much of the world saw a California sunset this evening. My tasks, and decisions, kept me inside for most of the day, busyness all around was not congenial to outside meditation. The birds surely did still sing, the animals visited as they do. I stood outside and played a mournful tune on my tin whistle, a parting thought for the day.

For while outside meditation did not fit within this day, the sights of remembrances were there to be seen. The State memorial and final funeral of President Reagan took much of my attention. One could say too much, and yet I think it right to pause, to enter into ceremony, to consider and honor a great man such as he.

Few people in history have or will likely influence as many lives as did Ronald Reagan. World leaders of historical note marked his passing with tears and profound words. None however were as profound as his son, Michael, who said that of all the things that his father did for this world, the greatest gift Michael received was the message of salvation, shared on a plane trip home one day. Michael told, with obvious joy, the wonder of salvation in Christ, a salvation which his father led him into in 1988.

The man who faced down communism, was a man who cherished his children, cherished his wife, cherished his Lord. The words of today spoke of a man who lived life as it should be lived, a life of character, humor, faith, and honor. No, he wasn’t perfect, but he was great.

It is the mark of a great man to lead people into finding their own fullness, their own hope. It is the mark of a great man to inspire people to do better, become more.

I find that at the end of this day I am humbled in watching this tribute of a man who was once the most powerful man in the world, a man whose mark on history is assured, and who could still, to me, be a model of faith and the Christian life lived out in an imperfect world.

The words of parting say it all. Whatever politics we espouse, whoever we may vote for in the coming election, we saw and heard the memorial of a great man. At the end of the day, at the end of his path, his children were there with words of great love, his wife was there, a sign of decades of mutual love and dependence, and his God was there, spoken words of Christ making today the most evangelistic national day for many years. All because of a single life lived, lived in historical events with a deep character shaped by faith.

His cup has been poured out, he has made his offering. He finished the race, he fought the good fight, he remained faithful. He has earned the prize he now embraces, and in his death echoes the call for which he lived. A call which inspires me to be more, do more, so that I too can live in such a way that Christ is so honored at my end.

morning

Another beautiful Spring day. Although punctuated by hammering and sawing, with large trucks backing up with their requisite beeping and driving down the street with their requisite rumble, it is a day of peace. Ravens fly about above the house, chickadees chirp from the branches, jays wander by, squirrels settle in for a long breakfast.

The state funeral of Ronald Reagan was on TV this morning. I watched it and a tear came into my eye. It was, to be sure, a beautiful service, honoring and honest, solemn and hopeful. There are moments in our national life when the debates of religion and state are pushed aside, for in facing those questions no state can answer there is only faith.

“A city on the hill” was Reagan’s conception of the United States. Now, we have to argue this still, defend our conception not only against our enemies but against fellow citizens. There is insult in honor and courage to those who do not have it. There is irritation in hope to those who wallow in fear, there is degradation in thinking of others for those who cannot think past themselves. Rather than rising to become more, these others would rather fight with all their being for everyone who thinks lofty thoughts to become less.

Great leaders rise above the morass and do not mind those who wish to wallow within their own lack. Great leaders see the present and see the future with the same eyes, understanding that if the way forward were easy and obvious, that way would have already been pursued.

The imperfections of Ronald Reagan already drift into the mists, while the legacy remains, a legacy which sought honor, and hope, and freedom, those concepts which too many of this generation mock. They mock because they don’t live up to their own inner conceptions of these realities, and so cannot bear to hear others proclaim what is no longer within.

People can live to bring others to freedom, people can yearn for more than themselves, can dream that this world is not the way it is supposed to be and there are ways to bring us closer to what is ideal. The legacy of Reagan is established in the fact that this generation, even my generation, little understand the battles which so consumed prior eras. We know nothing of the cold war, forget the era of bomb shelters and nuclear drills, cannot even begin to understand the realities of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. These are historical notes rather than present realites, because a man decided to be strong in the face of fear, and did not cower beneath those who revel in weakness.

There were no answers to the cold war, and yet it was answered, only being the remnant of an issue.

Does God work in nations? There is no doubt. God is in the business of bringing freedom, light, hope, restoration. When a nation takes these goals as its own, it can say it is walking with God, and God walks with the nation.

Reagan was born into an era when patriotism and honor were part of a valued character. Those lines which we would decry as cheesy or contrived now were said from the heart with a depth of soul and meaning. I wonder if those in my era, future leaders, can similarly wade past the many voices crying for a descension of heart and soul, overcome the naysayers who argue that all there is is our own selfish wants, that freedom means the right to waste away in our chosen vices.

I don’t know. History says that there will be those who do rise above, who bring light in darkness, and darkness does not overcome the light.

There are men and women in history who serve as models, who show that there is honor in character, and victory in higher principles, and power in convictions strongly held. That will be Reagan’s legacy, I think.

People are free because he led. People have hope where before they did not. Prisoners were freed, the oppressed were given relief. That’s not a bad legacy to leave, and one which serves as a model for all of us who wish to live in this present world with the eyes of the eternal world.

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