Just this past week, President Trump over at Mount Rushmore for the 4th of July delivered remarks about the history of the U.S. and the four men whose faces are carved into the rock.
To my mind, history is endlessly fascinating and multi-faceted. Fascinating because actions taken by men in the course of time, lead to present day realities that might not have otherwise occurred. Multi-faceted because we view their actions through the lens of our context here and now. And in five years time, we look at the same historical record and it looks different again.
George Washington became the first elected president of the United States and the first among the visages immortalised in rock. You may be asking what George Washington has to do with me? In 2020. In Cape Town. In the middle of a modern era with smart phones where everything happens at the speed of light?
Because he and the soldiers in his Continental army endured a brutal winter.
Because the lessons of their endurance are relevant to us who are going through this craziness that will forever be remembered as 2020.
There will be no historical moment, a ‘where were you when’ this happened. Corona virus and the lockdown are not like a pin-point on a calendar, but a broad smudge of dread and frustration spanning most of the year.
Washington’s Continental army turned to a bend on the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania to winter and resupply, spending around 6 months in tactical hibernation in the winter of 1777/78. As we think of 2020, they likely thought of 1777 going into 1778.
Ironically, they camped next to a forge that was used by two Quaker families. A forge is a superb image of being shaped through extreme circumstances. This is the forge after which the encampment was named.
Washington was merely reaching for the promise of a new nation in the New World, conceived in liberty. The winter encampment was brutal, a sixth of the soldiers succumbed to disease, a disparate rabble who were ill-trained to take on the British, the dream of America seemingly bleeding out its warmth into the cold earth.
And yet, they persevered in a political miracle.
Like the Continental army perhaps, our hope seems lost, an eternal winter when we cannot conceive of how normalcy could ever return. Loved ones falling ill, friends losing work, the comfort of proximity tempered with the fear of infection.
We are His children. The struggle has a purpose. Like the Valley Forge, the forge of 2020 is showing us our faith.
I would rather not endure a forge or trials to test my faith. Can I admit that I cringe slightly when I think of James’ word to the Believer?
Pure joy is not what 2020 evokes. Or any trial. But I may yet be standing when Christmas comes around. I may yet be singing His praises. I may be slightly more mature and battle-hardened. For sure, I don’t even want to consider throwing in the towel.
Today’s not a bad day. There have been worse, but not too many better than today. I don’t see much.
But God must be doing something.