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What Good is Truth in Hard Times?

April 15, 2008

In Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, the central character tries to escape an oppressive government by crossing the border with forged documents. She recalls her family’s drive to the border: “We turn onto the freeway, head north, flowing with not much traffic. Since the war started, gas is expensive and in short supply. Outside the city we pass the first checkpoint…Back on the road, he squeezes my hand, glances over at me. You’re white as a sheet, he says. That is how I feel: white, flat, thin. I feel transparent. Surely they will be able to see through me” (85). Eerily close to home, isn’t it. Gas prices up, the war, tension, insecurity, longing for escape?

A recent study from the Pew Foundation reveals that middle-class Americans believe that they are “not moving forward in life.” Of course, we don’t need statistics to tell us that when one look at the media frenzy over U.S. economics and consumer spending will do. Nevertheless, the point remains. There is tension at home. Gas prices are going up. Some of us are driving less, a malaise of economic insecurity coats the country. Some of us feel like escaping, but to where? Nothing like financial insecurity to push out our greater insecurities, our lack of hope for the future. So what do we do? We make up a better future. The Pew Foundation reports that despite current feelings about personal progress, many of “the American middle class are optimistic about the future. Most are confident that their quality of life in five years will be better than it is now. And, gazing farther ahead, most expect their children to do better in life than they themselves have done.”

Where does such blind optimism come from? We can not see 2013, much less the age of the next generation. What are we to do? Create hope out of thin air and breathe on it for good luck? Or is there something more hope-worthy in what seems to be hard times? Regardless of our economic future, we are always in need of security and peace. And, it seems to me, that those things spring from truth, not optimism. We can feel secure about things we know are true because they are reliable. Middle-class wish-fulfillment is not reliable. What is reliable is truth.

This past weekend I attended a family birthday celebration of my grandfather’s 80th birthday. You’d think he is 65 by his healthy glow, amazing. Just prior to dinner, George Dodson stood up and shared three things with us. I’ll comment one one. We were rapt in attention. Sage words from eighty year soul we all love and respect. He quoted a verse of Scripture from 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” He looked out over his posterity, full of emotion, and exulted in children who walk in the truth. Striking.

He did not say he was full of joy because of the great future of our careers or families. He did not exult even in the character and fortitude of his offspring. Instead, he took heart in truth, truth in Word and in his children’s ways. Why? Because truth lasts and truth blesses. In the same letter, John goes on to encourage the church in missional acitivity—putting others needs before their own in order to secure for them a future grounded in truth—and then closes with a benediction of “peace be to you.” Peace? How? Peace in persecuted times, peace in our times? And so my grandfather closed his remarks: “There may not be peace in this country, but you can always walk in the truth.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Sara permalink
    April 15, 2008 4:21 pm

    just lovely, and so wise! glad I got to meet your grandpa and glad to hear his birthday was celebrated in such a beautiful way!

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