The child is father of the man
by Terry Camsey, Major –
That seems at first glance to be a strange and contradictory phrase, doesn’t it? I mean, how can a child possibly be its own father?
When I first heard it, many years ago, I found it very perplexing. Today, it makes absolute sense. Kingman Brewster, former US Ambassador to the UK once asked, “Who are today the trustees of our future?”
Charles Handy, popular Scottish philosopher of the modern workplace, and widely published author—in pondering Brewster’s words—suggests we are all trustees of the future of our children and our grandchildren. “That,” he says, “is parenthood.”
Clarifying that thought even further, he cites comments made by the head of a family business that suggested all great family businesses were great partly because they found it natural to “think beyond the grave”…to take decisions that would not pay off in their time, but would in the next generation. “This gave them,” he suggested, “the sense of perspective, and of long term strategy, which so many businesses find so hard to cultivate.”
“Thinking beyond the grave” is an intriguing phrase, don’t you think? It suggests a sense of responsibility for (and the possibility of having an influence on) others, even when we have passed on to our reward.
Dr. Elton Trueblood, made the point even more sharply, when he suggested:
“We have made at least a start on discovering the meaning of life
when we plant shade trees under which we know full well
we shall never sit.”
What this is all suggesting is that what we do (or do not do) today has a profound influence on those who will follow us. The reality is that every generation lives with decisions, both good and bad, made by its predecessors. When I say “we,” that is of course an inclusive term…from top administration, through the divisional levels, on to corps and other frontline delivery units of the mission we strive to fulfill. No one, from General down to soldier, can avoid this reality…what we each do, or do not do, today will profoundly influence the effectiveness of the Army.
It is an awesome responsibility for which, I believe, we will each be held ultimately accountable.
The ever-present challenge is, of course, that time will not stand still. The world changes with the emergence of every new generation…with its own language, values, musical tastes, etc. The Gospel never changes, but Christ is incarnational…He “translates” well, and must be translated, into every such generation.
Commissioner Ronald Irwin (then chief secretary of this territory) interpreted the challenge well (in the pages of GOOD NEWS, territorial publication of USA East) when, in July 1994, he stated:
The truth is, if we are to become all that God has in mind for our beloved Army, we must begin doing innovative, daring things for the Lord, to be risk takers, adventurers adaptable, flexible and willing to change in order to meet the challenge of the ’90s and beyond. We cannot spend efforts trying to preserve the Army in the same form as 50 years ago. The Army is not a lifeless body to be preserved, but a dynamic organism to be nourished and developed into something greater and more effective.”
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” says Proverbs 13:22 (NKJV).
We are all concerned with leaving a legacy to our birth children and grandchildren. What better legacy could we leave to the “children” of our “Army family” than—like the Sons of Issachar—to respond effectively to the changing challenges of the emerging generations of our day?
That, surely, is at the very heart of our territory’s Mission Priorities.