(Part 4 in a series of letters called Ramblings from your Grandparents)
“Now all has been heard: here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” ….Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
The dictionary says that responsibility is a “duty” or a “charge.” For many today it is a “dirty” word – one they don’t want to hear or adhere to.
The reason you children have safe and secure homes to grow up in is because your parents face their responsibilities – many parents do not. The church family that has nurtured you through the years is strong and caring because many people shoulder many responsibilities, and countless numbers before us have been spiritually responsible, or we would not have the good, faithful fellowship to bless us today. And perhaps most importantly Jesus did not shirk His responsibility to die on Calvary, to be our Savior, to prepare the way for us to forever be with Him. His flawless example of responsible behavior at a remarkably high price should motivate us to follow in His steps….not to Calvary….but to do our very best on His behalf no matter how difficult or undesirable the chore, no matter what the personal price.
Harry S. Truman was President of the United States at a very difficult time in our history. It was not a position he really had anticipated having since he had been elected Vice President in 1944 to serve his country under the experienced hand of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. President Roosevelt had already had 12 years of charting the course for our great country. Mr. Truman could not have known that FDR would not live to complete his fourth term. To complicate Harry Truman’s life, the United States was in the final stages of a long and vicious world-encompassing war when “duty” called him to the Presidency.
It was President Truman that gave the order to drop the fearsome, atomic bomb on Japan, and by doing so indelibly marked history’s record with his name. Books have been written, dramas produced, riots and demonstrations held about the rightness of that decision. Mr. Truman has been, and will continue to be, a controversial figure in the pages of our history, because some people consider him a savior while others think of him as a fiend. We believe Harry Truman ordered the bomb dropped to end the war and save thousands upon thousands of lives; not only those of our precious countrymen, but of the Japanese people as well. Yes, many people suffered and died and the pain of that wartime action did not go away quickly, perhaps will never cease to exist in the foreseeable future; but many more people lived than died because it brought the war to a screeching halt.
President Truman was always under fire from his political and sociological foes in those days. His classic and much-quoted reply to all the criticism was, “If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.” As President of the United States he was required to make major and long-lasting decisions. It can honestly be written that Mr. Truman never shirked the responsibility of solving tough problems, never ran from them, but faced them squarely and fairly.
Most of us will never be required to make such public and pretentious judgments in the limelight of history, but we are faced daily with responsibilities and duties that are uniquely ours. It may be as simple as folding clothes or taking out the trash, mowing the yard or a study assignment; but responsibility belongs to everyone.
Grandpa once said in a sermon (perhaps someone else said it first) that some people go through life parking on other peoples’ nickles. The congregation laughed, but they knew it was true. Some of you are young enough to hardly understand what that phrase means. A few years ago we had parking meters in just about all areas where retail business was conducted. Whether you parked your car on the street or in a parking lot there would be a meter to “feed” nickles into. Sometimes five cents (a nickle) would buy an hour’s worth of parking time, sometimes only fifteen minutes; but whatever the charge there were always people who would drive and drive and drive, around and around to find a meter open that still had some time on it. They could then park and not pay anything or “park on someone else’s nickle.”
The parking meters are mostly gone now, but we have an ever-increasing number of people trying to go through life parking on someone else’s nickle – letting other people do the work, take responsibility (and the criticism that often comes with it) pay the bills, raise their children, care for aging parents, and even letting others take the blame for their own shortcomings. It is a despicable flaw in character to not shoulder your own responsibility, fulfill whatever duties have been assigned to you, and take the blame when you have not done as you should.
One characteristic that we sometimes see in God’s people is the bad habit of always blaming someone else for mistakes or sins or accidents that they have done or are responsible for. It is so deplorable because if we will not admit our wrongs, we can never make things right. That can cost us eternity with Jesus if we aren’t careful. How can we do a better job for our employer if we “never do anything wrong”? How can we stop lying and cheating if we won’t admit we’ve done it in the first place? How can we overcome disrespect and disobedience to our parents, or to our God, if we blind ourselves to those ugly sins? How can we repent of our sins, if we don’t admit we have them?
“Unless you repent, you, too, will perish.” ….Jesus, Luke 13:3
And unless we admit to our flaws and sins we will never, ever repent before God. Who needs a Savior if you have no sin?
You older grandkids probably know what an enabler is. We hear a lot about them today. An enabler is someone who covers for another who is doing wrong. The term is often used for someone who helps an alcoholic get his liquor or an addict get another drug “fix,” making excuses for them and covering up for them.
We also have enablers who are parents, always making excuses for their children’s bad behavior, ignoring disobedience (or laughing at it), bailing them out of trouble with the law, paying their bills when they are old enough and capable enough to pay their own, letting them stay at home for little or no money and less responsibility while those children waste the money they have on their own wishes. We’re so very grateful our parents refused to enable us to blame others for our wrongs. They demonstrated love in action!
Your parents have always been good at facing responsibility, but they get it honestly. Grandpa is a “bulldog” about completing whatever task has been assigned. (Bulldogs were noted for getting a grip on something and not letting go….and that’s Grandpa!) If he says he’ll do something, he does it, if he starts a specific task he doesn’t rest until it’s done. It does not matter how hard the job is or wearisome or trying it may be. Grandpa’s determination to carry out responsibility comes through loud and clear in relationship to his camp ventures. Sometimes people refer to the Christian camp experience as a vacation for the preachers, but surely they have never been on staff or they wouldn’t use that term to describe it. For Grandpa, when he is in charge, it is a 6 a.m. to midnight – kids with you every minute – energy-packed – “Let’s go, kids!” week. Someone suggested recently that perhaps Grandpa was getting too old for all this activity. Well, it isn’t easy. But I suspect Grandpa can survive the rigors of these fast-action days better than most because of his motivation. When kids are involved he has energy for whatever must be done or needs to be done. The kids are first. That’s why he walks every step of the way with the kids when going from activity to activity. What better way to build relationships than trudging along a wooded path? That’s why he hauls tents and tables and stoves and wood and chairs and lanterns and what-have- you in to our campsite and hauls it all back out again. What better way to have things “just right” for the campers?
When Grandpa lies down on his sleeping bag at the end of a busy camp day, his bones ache, but his mind is free as a bird because he’s done his best for Jesus….and for the kids.
We pray, grandkids, that as you continue on the road to adulthood and on through life that you will always face responsibility with zeal and enthusiasm and good cheer. We pray that whatever you do, from the lowliest task to the most glamorous, you will do it for the glory of Christ and His Father. We pray when you are tired, and your head is a bit stuffy, and there’s still a task or two to do, you will do it! Facing responsibility head-on….not veering to the right or gazing to the left or just plain sitting down in the middle of the road….is maturity in action.
Do you remember the day your Great-grandpa dropped in unexpectedly to worship services on Sunday morning? We were so surprised to see him! He came strolling across the parking lot and into the building and when you girls saw him you ran to hug him and welcome him. Of course, we all got together for a hurried-up family gathering that afternoon since Great grandpa would be there only a short time. Later he would say to me, “Those girls hopped up from the dinner table and washed dishes. Did their parents tell them to do that?”
“No, I don’t think so, dad. That’s just the way they are.” Great grandpa was impressed! And so are we every time we see your thoughtfulness and hard work! That’s responsibility! It doesn’t just happen. We choose to be responsible.