The Long Play

In a recent work experience I was in the field, literally, working with farmers. The subjects of ‘no till’ and ‘cover crops’ were being discussed as an emerging trend in farming and one that has tremendous upside for the future of agricultural, specifically for soil health. Although the science and data demonstrate the loss of nutrients, farmers fall back to their instincts and traditions.

I have also seen the frustrations of my oldest daughter, who spends thousands of hours as a mental health counselor for incarcerated youth, only to see constructive therapy undone by short-sighted judges who remand her clients to an adult prison. Or, even more heart breaking, when the youth returns to their questionable decision making. Tremendous potential for the future of a child is then cutoff by the lack of strength to see the process completed by either party. I touched on a similar theme in a previous blog post.

It takes commitment and time to undo years of poor choices. There is no silver bullet, quick fix, nor is it an easy road to travel. A short-term mindset to solve complex issues, with many parameters, makes no sense. The easier and more convenient choice is to do what we have always done. However, in doing so, we can erode conditions and lessen our capacity for results. The comfortable path wastes the extra effort made by those who desire a better outlook.

To better understand the changes we need to make, we need to step outside our world and our moment in time to pay attention to what is ‘exactly’ happening around us and self-reflect on what is driving our behavior. Busyness and laziness are opposing factors that can create the same outcome in our behavior. Busyness creates a pace of life that is the enemy of reflection, understanding, and intentionality. It is a big influence on the rate at which we receive information. Laziness or apathy is just not caring. An extended effort to research balanced sources of information, sources which take time and labor to be produced, is more demanding on time and energy than accessing the world through the internet and social media. Sadly, a survey a few years back found that more people were willing to trust search engines than human editors.

‘Think globally, act locally’ can be enhanced with the adage to ‘think eternally, act today.’ The time to act is now but we must do it knowing where we are on the timeline – what came before us and what will come after us. Think about it, we are only two generations away from having no direct influence – I know my parents’ parents, but not the prior generation. Any personal benefit from a decision made solely as to what is best for us at this moment dies when we do, yet the impact of that decision can last forever.

Several quotes from my collection fit here. Two come to mind, “We exist in time, but we belong to eternity” by Osho, an Indian Mystic, and “Great people plant trees they’ll never sit under” from Alfred North Whitehead. One of my first, and I think best, blogs “Leave a legacy” goes deeper on the subject.

Our nation has a rich history of soldiers carrying the banner of freedom for the future. Young men, in all our wars, died fighting against oppression and tyranny across the globe. Their sacrifices, at the time of need, were to serve a calling greater than themselves. Young men, today, are also dying fighting oppression and bullying (a more apt word than tyranny) within our own country. Their sacrifices, currently, are also serving a cause greater than themselves. If we honor the former, we must see these same sacrifices and honor the present.

Our concept of time needs to include ‘Kairos’ more so than ‘Chronos.’ Chronos (from which we get “chronology”) is quantitative and measures the years of our lives. Kairos is qualitative and focuses on the life in our years. A focus on the days in our life has a finite ending, while a focus on the value of our days will outlive us.

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, To all the people you can, For as long as you ever can.” – John Wesley

“We didn’t start the fire” is a song by Billy Joel. The lyrics are a stream-of-consciousness list of events that Joel felt his generation inherited but was not responsible for. It also reflects that issues have been prevalent in every decade. In the 50’s (Korean War/Suez Canal Crisis), 60’s (Vietnam/Civil Rights Movement), 70’s (Energy Crisis/Watergate), 80’s (AIDS/Chernobyl), 90’s (Rodney King/OKC Bombing), 00’s (Sept 11th/Beltway Sniper) and the list goes on.

Living for the present to the exclusion of the eternal is a temptation we all face. In looking at history, we are not alone, that mindset afflicted God’s people. Jesus’ disciples saved their lives by forsaking Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Ananias and Sapphira lied about their charitable gifts to gain the acclaim of their community (Acts 5:1–11). Peter acquiesced to the Judaizers when he disregarded the Gentile Christians in Antioch (Galatians 2:11–14).

If we are true Christians, we should be excited that we are alive during this time. We get to be a part of these moments. Our outlook needs to be on the long play of salvation history. This new generation of farmers are not bemoaning the deprived soil they inherited. Instead of asking why in our time are we having Coronavirus and civil unrest around Racial Inequities, lets focus on our efforts in this moment and the impact we can have on the future. We should emulate Paul, who could not conceive of his apostolic mission apart from suffering as it was inherent to his ministry (Acts 9:15-16; 20:23). Paul repeatedly describes the church as undergoing suffering and signifies this as a normal feature of Christian existence. Pope John Paul II said, “Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through suffering!”

“Never let your expectations interfere with the experiences God wants you to have.” – Justin Forsett, former NFL Running Back

These times are crying out for a new renaissance—an escalation of truth, beauty, and goodness. It is our turn to carry the torch of salvation into the darkness of our world like those who came before us—Paul, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and Pope John Paul II. It is time for Christians to be culture-makers once more. It is time to illuminate the world with heavenly grace. It begins with knowing our place in time in the long play to glorify God.

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