Wednesday, August 05, 2009

To Every Generation

Mighty Pillars by spudart

"LORD, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations....
Thou Dost turn man back into dust,
And dost say, "Return, O children of men."
For a thousand years in Thy sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night." from Psalm 90

My summer reading of the epic Chesapeake has set me thinking in terms of generations. Author James Michener casts a large net, drawing me into the multi-generational sagas of three families, deftly identifying the ideas that shaped each generation. No generation is exempt from wrestling with at least one big idea: expansion, slavery, education, rights, religious freedom, etc. What Michener manages to convey is that the essence of a big idea may be conceived in one generation, incubated in the next, and brought to fruition several generations later.

Last year our family watched a documentary about genetics and DNA that conveyed a parallel thought: what I do with my body matters, because I'm passing my DNA on to future generations. Similarly, in my reading of Chesapeake, I'm seeing that the ideas I embrace, the ideas that drive me-- will have no less an impact on my descendants than the DNA I bequeath to them.

Another thread to my thoughts on generations has come from my devotional reading of scripture. King David had a great desire to build a temple for his God, but was told clearly by the prophet Nathan that this was a project for his son, Solomon. So David dreamed and laid in store building materials and began a different type of building. He built the temple in the imagination of his son, Solomon. When Solomon grasped the torch from his father, he carried out the construction project with great passion. And though he got the credit for its completion, David's fingerprints are unmistakeably visible on each post and pillar.

The pillars of the temple were personified and given human names: Jachin, meaning stability and Boaz, symbolic of strength. Stability and strength were the dividends that Solomon's generation realized and they were only made possible because David was a man of war and a man of foresight.

As the autumn season of my life unfolds, it's prudent to take inventory and to ask myself
  • What are the big ideas that drive me?
  • How am I positioning the next generation to carry on truly important work?
  • Am I building the imaginations of youth?
  • What can I lay in store for the next generation so that they might finish what I cannot?
Long before Solomon named the pillars of the temple, his father David wrote these words:

"That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars,
Sculptured in palace style; " ~ from Psalm 144:12

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