Watching my sons’ as they enjoy the snap of autumn, reminds us that most of their lives will be raucous. Their childhoods have been saturated in life. They will play in hundred degree weather and drench their insides with hundreds of glasses of water, and go back out again. No matter how old, glad to turn on a hose and pour it on their brother’s head: expected or not. Annie Dillard wrote that life is a waterfall, just a river dropping through the air, and amazingly you can breathe in it.
Where some complain, they delight.
It is not an old-fashioned childhood. There is much of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers’ lives I would choose for them–but there is much the same: the tree climbing, turtle keeping, dog chasing, fence climbing, baseball throwing, bird-nest collecting–a fleeting season. The coldness of Wisconsin lakes, water that would comfort a polar bear–three months ago was a glacier of ice–brings my boys a joy that transcends any generation. They know life: the sadness of friends leaving, misunderstandings caused by badly used words, failures from themselves and others, deaths of pets, grandparents and one who was with us for such a short breath. Our lives are fast rivers, full of the surprises a river holds as well–an unexpected pet who wanders into the yard, friendships formed out of struggle, a healthy happiness for Memphis barbeque, a long observing of a woodpecker thirty feet above their heads, an earthly father who seeks to reflect their heavenly Father, the bond of a Savior who has claimed them and will never let them go, no matter how high or fast the river becomes, allowing them to see maybe it’s not so much about that river, but what you experience while in it.
A priest once encouraged me to know the Gospel. As a believer, I responded of course I knew the Gospel: peace on earth, goodwill to all men. We must preach it to ourselves daily, sometimes by the hour or minute. The writer of Hebrews encourages us not to forget what we have learned of our salvation. The assumption here is that it is indeed very easy to forget our salvation, and forget the Gospel, falling back into the dull swamp of our pagan ways. Our Lord has given us signs, wonders, miracles, gifts, fought and conquered death so that we may live not as slaves but as free brothers and sisters of our Lord.
“Therefore ought we more diligently to observe the things which we have heard, lest perhaps we should let them slip. For if the word, spoken by angels, became steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward: How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation.”
Let us reflect on the Gospel today. Maybe we are in need of more silence. Every generation has said this. We are so quick to learn to speak in our lives, so slow to learn to be quiet:
“I have a need of silence and of stars ;
Too much is said too loudly ; I am dazed.
The silken sound of whirled infinity
Is lost in voices shouting to be heard.
I once knew men as earnest and less shrill.
An undermeaning that I caught I miss
Among these ears that hear all sounds save silence,
These eyes that see so much but not the sky,
These minds that gain all knowledge but no calm.
If suddenly the desperate music ceased,
Could they return to life ? or would they stand
In dancers’ attitudes, puzzled, polite,
And striking vaguely hand on tired hand.”
Home by William Alexander Percy
Greenville, Mississippi 1930
As one generation forges ahead, another will simply endure. Walker Percy, Mississippi Delta writer, said enduring cannot simply be shrugged off. What remains the same for each generation is this: He to whom all glory is given and all mercy and faithfulness springs forth, is never ashamed to call us His brothers.