"I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas . . ."
I know, I know . . . you're probably thinking, "You're Nuts! I want Spring!!" Well, I'm actually ready for some green myself, but all of this white has reminded me of the holidays. Every year around Christmas time, our family gathers around the living room to watch some old classics. Invariably these will include Little Lord Fauntleroy, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, and, of course, White Christmas. I could quote most of these movies by heart because I have seen them so often. In White Christmas, Bing Crosby sings a song on a television program in an effort to rally the former members of his platoon together to honor their one-time general. The song asks the question, "what do you do with a general when he stops being a general?" That's actually a really good question.
It seems that often those who have served as generals during times of war make poor peacetime commanders. Douglas MacArthur once said, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." That didn't prove true for Patton, whose untimely death is still surrounded by controversy today. More recently, some newly retired generals have seized opportunity to criticize the leadership of their Commander-in-Chief with regard to military strategy in Iraq. Ironically enough, according to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, these generals never made mention of their concerns while they were serving their country in the military. It seems that opportunity was not at its peek in those moments.
"I'm in the Lord's Army . . ."
What does this have to do with our denominational situation? Sometimes those who have served faithfully as commanders have a hard time readjusting to "civilian" life. In fact, I don't believe that the struggle is always because of wrong motives or evil intentions. Sometimes, having lived their lives in a constant state of war, these generals are trained to take charge and to expect compliance with their decisions. However, when we are talking about the body of Christ, even pure motives can be used by the enemy to divide the body. Instead of utilizing whatever influence they have achieved to build up the body, they seem more interested in utilizing such influences to bring about their own perceived best plans.
Even parents have to learn this lesson. When their children grow older, the role of the parent changes. Yes, they are to always be an influence, but the desire to command or control the life of the child must come to an end in order for the child to stand on his/her own. This, undoubtedly, is the hardest lesson I have ever had to learn.
I sat across the table the other day from a seventy-something year old father who, with tears in his eyes, explained to me that he is currently seeking to rebuild bridges with a daughter because he never learned that lesson. Praise the Lord he is learning it now.
So what do you do with these types of generals? First, we should pray for them. Let's face it, change is tough even in the best of circumstances. Second, maybe they need to be reminded that it is God Who guides and God Who gives the victory and that it is okay to trust Him to fight our battles. After all, history has shown that He does a much better job than we do.