Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Venerable Washington

The book I'm currently working on is "George Washington's First War" by David A. Clary.  This book is a challenge for me in a way that I wasn't expecting.  George Washington is one of the most influential men in our nation's history; many historians would say he is the most influential man in our nation's history.  And because of this, we tend to think he was near perfect.  I doubt anyone would say it out loud but this is what we think.  A man so wise and yet so humble, so knowledgeable on every important subject, a man who was able to lead a ragtag army to victory over the largest military on the planet at that time, a man who was almost unamimously elected our first president, a man who people know more by myth than reality it seems. 

This book delves into his adventures as a young man, before he became the George Washington that we know.  And this book tries to show him for who he really was: arrogant, ambitious, driven by a desire to make money and be somebody, with a tongue that would twist the truth to his advantage when it was apparent that the straight truth would hurt him or the cause he was working for (namely, the Ohio Company).  To be frank, I don't really like what I'm reading because I don't like my heroes falling to earth and living like the rest of us humans.  I would prefer that Washington was always the great man that we now know him to be.  But this book also offers hope.  George Washington had a rough start in life.  He had a mother who was manipulative, petty, and clingy; he lost his father and then his older brother (father-figure) at a young age; in his campaign against the encroachment of the French in the Ohio country, he made many military mistakes.  He critically misjudged and misunderstood the allegiance of the Indian tribes on several occassions.  He undertook the command of a campaign against the French that was clearly driven by the ambition of the men who owned the Ohio Company and who were afraid the French would cut off their land conquests and trade with the Indians.  Most of his decisions in early life were driven by personal ambition rather than any thought for the good of others.  And of course, one of the great marks against his character that is well-known is his status as a slave-holder. 

The reason all this should give us hope is because he's an example to us that people who make grave mistakes can go on to do great things.  Instead of wallowing in our mistakes and letting them define us, we can learn from them and go on to be a better person.  This isn't something we can do in our own power.  It's clear that George Washington's transformation was due to his faith in God, a faith that he relied on more and more throughout his life.  This is why he's one of my personal heroes.  Our heroes should always point us to Christ and it's clear that Washington would not have been able to do the things he did without God working through him.  There is always hope for us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

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