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Monday, August 16, 2010

Men in the Valley

It ain't gonna be no smooth ride if you're doing the right thing.

Brett and Kay McKay wrote a fascinating piece on the “Art of Manliness” weblog entitled “The Seasons of a Man's Life”. The article points out that the lives of men seldom go along on a steady upward track. At best it is a slowly ascending series of peaks and valleys. However much our spouses desire it, our fortunes rise and fall like a roller coaster. Often the great men among us—those who actually accomplish something significant in this life—pass through what King David called the “Valley of the Shadow of Death”.

David knew about those valleys. So too did men like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Throughout history, any man who sought to do good, to accomplish some noble purpose has faced a Valley Forge winter as did George Washington, a wilderness time as Elijah did or betrayal and slavery, sold away to Egypt by his own brothers as Joseph was.

Satan does not like brave or good men. He wages war upon them without respite. Men who seem to live a charmed life—one of steady accomplishment and certain rise to power—often wind up having tell-all books written about them after they are gone, explaining what rotters they “really” were all along. Give me a man, however, who has accomplished something selfless and good for his fellow man and I will show you someone misunderstood, persecuted or tried to the limit of his endurance at some point in his life.

Many of these brave men die in the midst of one of these trips through the “Valley”, never knowing the full effect of their courageous actions. The men like Crockett, Travis and Bowie who died at the Alamo never saw their brothers in arms strike down the very Mexican Army that slaughtered them. Never saw their friends and neighbors, outnumbered 2 to 1 or better, charging across the field beside the San Jacinto River shouting “Remember the Alamo” and winning for Texas it’s freedom from tyranny.

Nathan Hale understood a bit of it when standing on the gallows, a rope around his neck, he told the executioner he regretted he had but one life to give for his country. He never saw the end of the revolution and the nation that would rise out of it to bless the world.

I’ve told here the story of Col. John Boyd, who always told his Air Force Tactical Fighter School cadets they could “do something” or “be somebody”. Choose to be somebody and you take the road to promotion, money, power and rank. Choose to do something and you will face persecution, obstacles and loss of position. Choose to be somebody and you will lie, betray, cheat and compromise. Choose to do something and you retain your integrity, remain loyal to your friends and you just may accomplish something worthwhile with your life.

Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you even unto the end of the world.” The end of your personal world may be the gallows as it was for Nathan Hale, early forced retirement as it was for John Boyd or financial ruin as it was for Oskar Schindler, the man who saved the lives of so many Jews and exhausted his fortune during the holocaust because it was the right thing to do.

When Samuel chose the unlikeliest son of Jesse as the future king of Israel, he said of David, “Man looks upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart." I look forward in heaven to enjoying the company of real men. It seems there are so few honorable men here on this sad little planet. If there were not so, how much better off would this world be?

Tom King

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