The older I get, the less tolerance I have for commercials. Almost everything Helen and I watch these days is pre-recorded and we use the fast forward on our remote control frequently. But there are a few commercial-free options out there. One we enjoy is C-Span.
I stumbled upon a lecture on C-Span given by the historian, David McCullough. He was talking about the founding of our nation. He made a simple point. As we study history, we bring our knowledge of the way things turned out. But the people we study did not have that knowledge.
Nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. History could have gone off in any number of different directions in any number of different ways at any point along the way, just as your own life can.
For example, as we come to the Fourth of July, those who signed the Declaration of Independence had no way of knowing that this was the beginning of a great new nation. For all they knew, they were signing their death warrants. If Great Britain had won the war, they might well have been tried and hung for treason. Yet we read this history as if they knew the future. They didn’t. Nobody can. Which means their deed of defiance took that much more courage and merits that much more admiration.
Life is like that. Yours can unfold in any number of directions. We make choices based on the best information we have at the time, which often isn’t very good. Or we make choices based on random whims that make no sense at all. The Calvinist doctrine of predestination is no longer taught even by the Presbyterians. We are not actors in a play where everything has been scripted out in advance. We are making up as we go. Or as McCullough says, “winging it.”
I was watching a replay of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals. That’s the game played just down the road in Salt Lake City where Michael Jordan broke the hearts of Utah Jazz fans with his game winning shot. I watch that knowing what will happen. And yet, Jazz fan that I am, I still hope every time that maybe this time the ball will miss. Of course, it can’t miss. It already happened. Chicago won that game 87-86 and nothing will ever change that.
But what about the moment Michael Jordan let that shot go? He could not possibly have known it was going in. He had not been shooting well that game, so he must have had some doubts. As the ball was in the air, he must have known that he could be the hero or the goat. It could go either way. He must have felt some fear.
But here is the thing that fascinates me about great people like Michael Jordan. Even though he couldn’t have known, I’m pretty sure he did know. He had that kind of confidence. And believing, even under all that pressure, that ball would go in the basket helped it go in.
I think it may have been something like that with our Founding Fathers. They couldn’t have known, and yet I think they did know. They had that kind of confidence. Or maybe the better word is “faith.” Because it was much more than confidence in themselves. It was faith in their God.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Have a great Independence Day.