“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20,21).”
Historian Anthony Beevor describes him as possessing “patriotic egocentricity”. Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces in World War II, was a bullhead.
However, he was more than just stubborn. He took pleasure in biting the hands that fed him, according to Beevor. He opposed the ideas of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt at every turn.
Beevor notes that he had a “supreme disdain for inconvenient facts”. Beevor writes,”Only de Gaulle could have written a history of the French army and manage to make no mention of the Battle of Waterloo.”
De Gaulle once said,”When I am right, I get angry. Churchill gets angry when he is wrong. We are angry at each other much of the time.”
The French leader obviously had a high opinion of himself. “I was France”, he said.
The TV medical drama “House” recently aired an episode with a character who also thought he was indispensable. Mickey is seemingly a drug dealer in the hospital because he collapses regularly.
House’s medical team can’t get to the root of Mickey’s problem. They think it is environmental in nature, but Mickey refuses to release information to them because it might incriminate him.
As the story develops, the doctors learn that he is actually an undercover cop. Mickey still refuses to give them information because their poking around might jeopardize a major bust ready to go down the next day. “Just keep me alive another 24 hours,” he says.
“Thirteen”, one of the doctors, tells him it isn’t worth dying over, but Mickey doesn’t relent. Then, Dr. House discovers that the man has an autoimmune disease that is untreatable. Thirteen tells Mickey,”It wouldn’t have mattered if you told us what you knew. You did the right thing.”
After the man dies, House doesn’t seem to appreciate the man’s stance, however. “He died a hero in his own mind”, he says.
Not only are we humans not absolutely essential for making the world go ’round, we are a weak race. Even the greates of believers fail.
G.K. Chesterton was one of the great Christian minds of the early 20th century. He influenced many others, including revolutionaries Mahatma Ghandi and Michael Collins, according to Phillip Yancey, who credits him with turning his spiritual life around. Yancey indicates that C.S. Lewis claimed Chesterton as his spiritual father.
What appeals to me about Chesterton is that he was primarily a writer. He had a portfolio I could only dream of: 5 novels, 100 books, 200 short stories, numerous poems and essays, biographies and even a history of England.
Yancey says that one of his bigger contributions was in dealing with the concept of pleasure. Many men had dealt with the problem of evil, but had never answered why there was pleasure.
Chesterton saw this world as a shipwreck in which the remnants of pleasure were still around. It was God who created pleasure. The leftovers of God’s pleasures were to be used with joy, and restraint.
Yet, Chesterton had trouble practicing what he preached. Yancey quotes Chesterton and adds a comment:”‘There are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands,’ said Chesterton, and he ultimately fell from excess, never achieving the balance he preached so convincingly.”
Chesterton’s problem was that he loved to eat. He weighed between 300 to 400 pounds.
As one who writes about matters of faith, I admire Chesterton. I can also empathize with his difficulty acting on his own thoughts.
Chesterton understood the gospel, which is why he could still continue to write with a clear conscience.
Yancey says of him,”In fact, he said, one of the strongest arguments in favor of Christianity is the failure of Christians, who thereby prove what the Bible teaches about the Fall and original sin. As the world goes wrong, it proves that the church is right in this basic doctrine.”
The lives of De Gaulle, the fictional Mickey, and the great (in more ways than one) G.K. Chesterton all tell me one thing: only God is essential to life, real life.
This truth was brought home to me in my own circumstances recently. The issue had to do with finding housing for my family.
For months we have known we had to move at the end of this month. We finally found a homey house to rent. However, there is a two week gap between our move out and move in dates.
We needed a place to stay during those two weeks, so we prayed. We asked God to do more than we could ask or think.
As I sit here in the coffee shop on the last day of the month, my family is residing in a beautiful house which sits on a hillside out in the country. It has a deck which has a nice view of the surrounding forests and allows a peek at the mountains in the distance.
When I got there last night, I sat on the deck for a while and listened to the cacaphony of sound from the insects. This morning I sat on the same deck, listening to the birds and the peace and quiet.
This housesitting opportunity is a good reminder of the biblical thought “ye have not because ye ask not (James 4:2b). God answered our prayers. Only He could have given such a place to people like us, who don’t normally have the resources to live in such surroundings.
I think de Gaulle understood at the end of the day how miniscule his contributions really were. He said, ”The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”
The unreal Mickey found this out after he died. Chesterton already knew.
The only contributions that matter are those wrought by God. That’s why I continue to write, hoping that despite my own infirmities, He will use them.