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On Sons and Generals

Recently, events in Libya have rocked our nation. Whether the Main-Stream-Media admits it or not, Americans care about these things; at the very least, mothers care. As the mother of a Green Beret, I care. Into the midst of all this comes the revelation that a man we all consider good, General David Petraeus, the director of the CIA no less, has acted contrary to even the most basic definition of honor. We are tempted to dismiss this lack of valor as just a smokescreen, as indeed it is, and yet there it is: an honorable man acting dishonorably to those under his care. Sadly, by committing a rather ordinary sin General Petraeus has fitted his enemies and ours with the weapons of our destruction – and his. Indeed, the Devil IS in the details.

One of the most plaintive lines in all poetry comes from William Butler Yeats’ poem The Second Coming.

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;”

Here is a metaphor for our time. Picture it. Take a few minutes to really think about these two lines. The falcon is soaring farther and farther out of sight and he cannot return. He cannot hear the falconer. You should be beating your breasts in agony at those lines. The entire despair of that poem is settled in those two lines. “The falcon cannot hear the falconer.” Oh, Woe!

We thought our General was honorable and we are surprised when is not. We want our sons to have honor and we don’t even know where to begin. We laugh and scorn and mock and deride and when our tree bears bad fruit we are shocked.

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful.”
C. S. Lewis The Abolition of Man

It is not a pretty picture and while we despair for our generals, we are even more afraid for our sons.

Happily, we are not without hope. This kind of thing has happened before. This whole Benghazi/adultery scandal is not new. There once was a man after God’s own heart who not only committed adultery but killed a good man to cover it up. Here is another plaintive line: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war…” (II Samuel 11) Oh, the woe that is captured in that small beginning.

Unable to create anything new under the sun, we are destined to repeat the past. The hard truth is that our sons and our generals are sinners. If there was an educational theory that could cure that we would probably know it by now. For all our talk of virtue we are powerless to create it. We cannot MAKE our children good.

Some of you may remember my own story of zeal in raising my oldest son. When he graduated from high school he decided to go into the Navy. This brilliant, beautiful, musical boy decided to go into the Navy!?! I suddenly realized that for 19 years I had thought I was the potter shaping the clay and when the clay turned out to be a vessel entirely different than what I envisioned, I was devastated until one day it occurred to me that another hand was at work. The master potter was shaping a vessel for His glory. My son belonged to Christ and Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit was working in my son. My son had a falconer who would never leave him to wander in widening gyres beyond hope.

Now I see my job as mother and teacher in a new light. I am, above all, to present the Gospel to my children. This I must do without manipulation. I have no sphere of sovereignty over their souls. They answer to a higher power and so do I.

But because of that I also work in hope, not the hope which rests in my own efforts but the hope that comes from knowing that the Holy Spirit is working to bless my efforts and make them effectual. To that end I fill the minds of my children with truth, beauty and goodness. I enliven them with pictures which awaken ideas within their souls, idea pictures and word pictures.

Finally, I am careful to think about what C. S. Lewis said in The Abolition of Man. The metaphors I use must present what is honorable as good and what is dishonorable as bad. There must be no confusion. If you want to see what these confusing pictures looks like watch a random TV comedy or drama. Our children are surrounded by skewed pictures of life. We must make sure they are getting clear pictures both of good and of evil. To only present them with pretty pictures is as dangerous as filling their minds with only evil. We have to teach them that their enemy is out to devour them just as he has devoured our good General and it is not a pretty picture.

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