History on Sale

Benjamin Rush was one of the founding fathers of the United States; He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, he was also a physician; in fact he was one of that countries’ first psychiatrists. He gave himself to what he called the curing of the diseases of the mind. Perhaps because he was a psychiatrist, dreams played an important part in Benjamin Rush’s life. In fact in the year 1785, he had a dream that changed the course of his life completely. He imagined that he was in the city of Philadelphia, standing with a large crowd beneath Christ Church. On the steeple of the church was a man clinging to the weather vane, his legs wrapped around its ball. When Benjamin Rush asked somebody what was going on there on the steeple of the church, he was told that that man was able to influence the weather. In his hand, the weather vane not only indicated the weather, it directed the weather. But somehow the weather was not cooperating. The man called for the sun to shine, and it began to rain torrents. He demanded that the wind would blow, but the streets of Philadelphia were strangely calm. At first the man was agitated, and then he fell into a deep depression. Benjamin Rush said, “The man is mad”. And suddenly there came from the steeple of the church, a messenger dressed as mercury, carrying a banner in his hand, and on that banner, scribed in Latin were the words, ABOUT YOU A STORY IS BEING TOLD.

It takes a great degree of genius for a man to interpret his dream within his dream. And when Benjamin Rush awoke, he realized that that man on the steeple of the church was none other than himself. He had been trying to influence the course of history and he realized that it was like commanding the wind to blow. And as a result of that dream, Benjamin Rush left political life.

That dream is startling in its breadth, its depth, its myth, its legend. It is the dream of a physician who gives himself to the healing of disease and discovers that the power of cure often lies beyond his grasp. It is the dream of a politician who seeks to influence the current of his time, only to discover that he is caught up in the currents. To influence his day is like trying to capture the wind in his hand. And a city like Washington DC or Ottawa Ontario, when all is said or done, infinitely more is said than is done.

It could also be the dream of a Christian leader or any Christian, who wants to influence her nation for God, to turn it back to righteousness, and discovers that there are powers at work in the world that are greater than she can command. We live in a strange and perverse time.
And there are times when you want to quit. Times when you want to settle for a cheap doctrine of election and decide that if God wants to win the world then he can do it himself, you’d rather not get involved.

When that melancholy of the soul comes over me, I have taken some inspiration from the life of the apostle Paul. I know that for some, Paul is a kind of patron saint, but that has not always been true for me. It seemed to me in past years, that Paul was a breed apart. He had a vision that I did not see, a power I did not know, an authority I was not given. When you stand next to somebody who is 20 feet tall, somehow you’re not even inspired to stand up straight.
But that changed for me a few years ago, when my dad and I were able to visit the lands of the Near East, and in part at least we traced the steps of the apostle Paul. It was George Truitt who once said, he “saw the tracks of a wounded rabbit red across the snow, and those were the tracks of the apostle Paul across the Roman Empire”. Terrifying, antagonistic, demon infested was the world of which Paul lived. And if you and I feel that we face obstacles, he faced them even more. And yet the apostle, that little Jew with just a band of nobodies, not only effected his day for God, he changed the course of history. So that today we name our sons after Paul, and our dogs after Nero.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting too that the most influential man ever- Jesus- never wrote a book, never had a position of power and pretty much seemed content to live out his days investing in a bunch of social outcasts in a backwater part of the empire. Of course I am oversimplifying, but the idea is the same.

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