“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (Psalm 51:10-12).”
They’re called “The Few”: the pilots who fought the Germans off in the Battle of Britain in World War II, probably saving their country from invasion.
The phrase was coined by Winston Churchill, who during a speech of the period said:
“The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
Three thousand men, most of them from Britain, defended millions of people. Over 500 of these flyers lost their lives doing so.
One hopes that in our modern era, Iraqis will step up and defend their country as American combat troops leave. We’re still there in large numbers, but we won’t fight anymore unless we’re asked to.
That country is still in disarray after years of war. Iraq needs its own version of The Few.
Where does commitment like that of The Few come from? While others are scurrying for cover, what makes a man or woman commit themselves to a cause, or a person?
As I write this, a family has just come into the coffee shop. A man is carrying his young daughter in his arms, and the mother is quite disabled, in a wheelchair, and talking with slurring tongue. Again, I ask the question: where does a person get dedication like this?
It’s rare, at least in today’s pop culture. What makes headlines are incidents such as a former candidate for high political office going out on his cancer-ridden wife and fathering a child.
I was drawn to a song about this kind of LACK of commitment yesterday as I sat in another coffee shop. The song is called “Baltimore Oriole.”
As a born and partially bred Baltimorean, and a big fan of their Orioles baseball team, I stopped to listen to the lyrics:
Took one look at that mercury, forty below
No life for a lady
To be draggin’ her feathers around in the snow
Leaving me blue, off she flew
To the Tangipaho – down in Louisiana
Where a two – timin’ Jaybird
Met the divine Miss O
I’d like to ruffle his plumage
That Baltimore Oriole
Messed around with that big guy
Till he singed her wings
Forgivin’ is easy – it’s a woman like, now and then
Could happen to thing
Send her back home
Home ain’t home without her warbling
How she can sing
Make a lonely man happy, Baltimore Oriole
Come down from that bough
Fly to your daddy now.”
This lady bird was a fair weather friend, and went looking for greener pastures. She learned the truth of the old proverb that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and finally returned home where she belonged.
There was a committed party in that relationship, though. It was the man who forgave her and took her back.
(One aside: As a Baltimore Oriole fan, I have to be really committed these days. They are one of the worst teams in baseball, and have been for a long time.)
This song was made famous by Hoagy Carmichael, the great songwriter and film star of the first half of the twentieth century. Carmichael himself had something of a restless, undevoted streak .
His biography describes three distinct periods of his life. From reading it, Carmichael seems like a restless, torn man, unable to make a commitment to one thing or person.
He wrote music, but he also worked in law and investments. However, his only real success came in music, when he stuck to it that is.
At the end of his life, Hoagy Carmichael said this:”I’m a bit disappointed in myself. I know I could have accomplished a hell of a lot more… I could write anything any time I wanted to. But I let other things get in the way… I’ve been floating around in the breeze.”
It’s time to answer my earlier rhetorical question. Where does commitment come from? The answer is that commitment has to come from deep within the soul.
Unfortunately, a lot of us lie to ourselves about the state of our souls. We think we are committed, and we’re not.
The Psalmist asked God to deliver him from “lying lips and a deceitful tongue” -his own, perhaps! He wanted peace, but when he opened his mouth, those around him saw them as fighting words (Psalm 120:1-7).
Could it be that the people he hung with could tell he was uncommitted to his own words? They didn’t believe him. They could tell by his actions and spirit that his heart wasn’t behind his speech.
The Psalmist knew his own heart and asked God to deliver him from his sinful inner soul. He asked God to wash it clean (Psalm 51:1-3,7).
The Psalmist knew of his own lack of commitment to what he believed, and he asked for God’s help. I think if we are honest, most of will admit we are in the same condition as the Psalmist.
The wise man of Proverbs knew this to be so. He wrote,” Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’? (Proverbs 20:9).”
Jesus doesn’t want us to stay in our uncommitted condition. He told as much to the infamous “Doubting Thomas”.
Thomas had told his fellow disciples that he wouldn’t believe Jesus had rose from the dead until he saw Him with his wounds from The Crucifixion. When at last Thomas saw Jesus, the Lord told him,”Stop doubting and believe (John 20:27b).”
Our lack of complete engagement with the Lord is one reason He has to keep after us. He puts a searchlight on our spirits, and when He doesn’t like what He sees, he has to do surgery. It’s painful, but is cleans out the cancer in our souls (Proverbs 20:27,30).
A good place to start in becoming a person of belief in and commitment to Jesus Christ is to stop lying to ourselves . When we admit the truth that we aren’t as fully dedicated as we think we are, the healing can begin.
This is true in any relationship. If want committed marriages, friendships, or even patriotism, we may have to confess we aren’t 100 percent dedicated.
When we do, we can engage in the process of becoming fully committed. Then we can become one of The Few. I know the Lord truly wants to make me part of that club.