More than a drill…

by DanWolgemuth on January 5, 2024

Baby boomers will remember. I certainly do. As I suppose this current generation will as well.

Specifically, I’m speaking of the “drills” that took, and take place in school classrooms around the country. Frankly, these drills provide a slit through which I can catch a glimpse into our culture, history and current events.

In the 1960’s, when I made my way to Whittier Elementary School at 218 W. Park Avenue in Wheaton, Illinois, I was made acutely aware of the concerns of the school administration, based on our regularly executed safety drills. Yes, the expected, fire drill, tornado drill were practiced; but then there were the relevantly timed air raid drills.

Air raid drills were a byproduct of the Cold War. An era of heightened global tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. A season of nuclear fear. A passage of time when the concern over Communism was elevated to a place where six-year-olds learned what they were supposed to do in case of a nuclear attack.

(Decades later, drills persist, but with different levels of evil and hatred that require it. And yes, tornados and fires still exist as well, but the proximity to human evil presents an even more pressing danger, even to our school children.)

It was during those deeply impressionable days for me that visits from my grandparents formed an embedded perspective and urgency. More specifically, it was the shaping done by my grandmother. I’ve written about Cecelia before… a tiny explosion of poorly aligned theological priorities. Hers was a transactional faith. A fragile and performance-oriented faith. She was tiny in stature, but ruthless at times in her manipulation.

During the Cold War era of our lives, Cecelia promoted an emphasis and priority on Bible memorization. Her motivation and inspiration were clear. Someday, if the Communists overwhelm and occupy, they will ban scripture… and as such, what is tucked away in our heart, mind and soul is what we will be able to rely on.

While the emphasis on Psalm 119, and hiding God’s Word in my heart was valuable, and appropriate, the rationale for why was misaligned. In fact, absorbing, knowing and embracing God’s Word is likely more important today than it was in the 1960’s… and that has nothing to do with either the Cold War or the threat of Communism. Yes, vitally important today, even for those in the church, and at times, especially for those in the church.

Unfortunately for Cecelia, fear was the primary motivator for obedience. Which is likely the root of this reflection at the start of the new year. I want my own journey with Jesus, my walk of faith, my pilgrimage to know God and make Him known, to be driven by awe and hope that boil over into delight and obedience. I don’t want to live with a white-knuckle faith, but rather cling to Jesus, as He holds securely on to me. This is what compels obedience. This is what anchors holiness.

Perhaps there is a Cold War in the hearts of many who were once warmed by the embers of faith. I see it. We all see it. And so, in many ways, the strategy is correct, even if the motivation was amplified from the wrong perspective. God’s Word invites us to find hope in the chaos. Light in the darkness. Love in the hatred. And this is what I choose to embrace in this coming year.

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