Returning to Kirksville and Novinger, Missouri for a family reunion a couple of weeks ago brought back a flood of memories. Of course, I grew up in Denver, Colorado and never lived in Missouri myself but this was home for Dad and Mom — where they grew up, where they courted, where they embarked on their new life together. To add to the sentimental significance, these two towns were the backdrop for my mom’s diary which we discovered after her death six years ago. We edited the text of that diary, added photos of her and Dad, added photos of the towns and illustrations of things she mentioned, and created an album which is one of our living room treasures. Therefore, though the memories this Missouri visit stirred in me were not of a direct origin, they were nevertheless vivid and dear.
I was thinking this morning of one memory in particular, one that occurred sometime in the mid-1970s when Claire and I were with my parents visiting the farm where Dad grew up. I had been walking around the dilapidated structure that had once been his home. The small house had seen service as a hay barn since the time Dad had left it in the Depression when he was 17. Even as such, it was now falling apart and rotting away.
Meanwhile, Dad was walking around in what I supposed had been pasture or maybe part of the cornfield he had tended as a kid. But as I came up to him, he was slowly wandering about with a mournful, perplexed look. “What’s up?” I asked. He looked at me thoughtfully. And then, with a slight, wistful smile, he said, “Son, the ground has changed here. The very ground has changed.”
Dad then explained how he had at first wondered if his memory was playing tricks on him. But no, he had carefully worked it out, even measuring his strides from the house to the spot where he now stood. It was as solid and flat as a coin. “It’s as level as can be right here but, believe you me, there used to be a slope here, one steep enough so’s we kids could slide down it when it snowed. I know I’m not mistaken.” He then looked around again and repeated in a pensive manner that deeply touched me. “Yes, Dennis; the very ground has changed.”
Now I’m sure one of the reasons this particular memory returned to me was because of a conversation Claire and I had engaged in while driving through Missouri that morning. We had talked about the moral devolution that has occurred in our lifetime, a tragic cultural decline in which America (and the West in general) has become uglier, meaner, more chaotic, more perverted, more enslaved to base, brutish philosophies.
Here’s just one illustration of that change, a striking one that I came across while reading a book recently given to us by Harold and Donna Berry. It’s an excerpt of a speech given at a prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C. by Earl Warren who, just the year before, had been appointed as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As you read these lines, try to imagine the violent, hateful rants which such a speech would trigger from today’s media, Hollywood celebrities, establishment educators, leaders of the Democrat Party, and others in the self-appointed cultural elite.
Said Chief Justice Warren at that prayer breakfast, “I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles…I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their express belief in it…I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so no great harm can come to our country.”
You see what I mean? We live in a much different America today. Indeed, “the very ground has changed.”
But is this the end of the story? Of course not. For the Christian (that is, the person who has put his complete trust in Jesus as payment for his sins), there is a forever victory awaiting. This is the Christian’s secure inheritance, the final realization of the blessed promises God has made in His covenants with those who believe in and follow Him. And the comforting, motivating knowledge of that superb destiny — plus the existential power of the indwelling Holy Spirit – provides believers all they need to respond to all of the “ground changing” challenges before us. Those challenges, by the way, are the same they’ve always been for God’s people. 1) Do not be dismayed. Look to heaven’s graces for present support. Keep things in their proper perspective. Keep things in their proper priority. 2) Resist the world’s efforts to pour you into its molds. Keep yourself unstained by the world. Don’t give in to it. Don’t even compromise with it. 3) Challenge the culture by wisely, winsomely, and courageously setting the light of Christ on a hill where people can see it, where spectators will know that truth, holiness, mercy, and liberation are still available to those who humbly seek God’s face.
Yes, though the very ground be changed, we need not be alarmed or dismayed for Jesus is the Cornerstone. He is the Savior Who is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the Prime Mover Who remains ever unmoved. And, by His gracious power, He offers spiritual solidity to all Who are His. “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.” (Isaiah 26:3-4) A similar pledge is made in Psalm 40:2; namely, that the faithfulness of God will set our feet upon a rock and make our footsteps firm.
So be of good courage as you walk in His paths. For no matter the shifting sands of fashion and philosophy; no matter the erosion of culture; no matter the shaking of the world (whether by its own drunken reeling or even by divine judgment), the Christian’s position and calling remain the same.