Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How to Turn 40

Long time since the last post. Work is to blame.

Today is the 149th Anniversary of the accidental shooting of T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a great American and Christian who stands unequalled in Trey Bahm’s pantheon of heroes. Although we are commemorating many sesquicentennial events of the Civil War these years, the 149th shooting at dusk on Day Two of the Battle of Chancellorsville is significant because of the General’s age at the time of his death: 39. I have 26 days remaining on this number.

Turning 40 is a big deal, simply because it’s happening to me. We make much of aging and dying young in America. And if you don’t have the vain honor of leaving a good-looking corpse, there’s always the Mid-life Crisis to fall back on, or more aptly for 2012: playing out one’s health drama on Facebook.

I don’t know that I would have been close to the General had I been a contemporary and in his peer group. He himself was admittedly misanthropic. Some historians even believe he had Asperger’s. He certainly had a quirky, really aloof personality. And yet I’ve always been drawn to those types of folks, so maybe we would have at least become well-acquainted. But what makes the General undoubtedly a brother in Christ, and informs my faith that I will absolutely see him standing alongside my Lord to welcome me into eternity, was a special blessing of peace that he seemed to have been given from on high. Jackson had a measure of serenity that seemed to have been given to him by Providence during an unbelievably difficult childhood of fatherlessness and poverty. Even before he began his spiritual journey as a young officer stationed in Mexico, Jackson seemed to possess a mind-boggling peace that stunned his fellow soldiers. During Winfield Scott’s assault on Mexico City in 1847, Lt. Jackson and a sergeant, their battery shot to pieces, single-handedly held a position against Mexican soldiers pouring lead into them from Chapultepec Castle. Jackson attempted to rally his command with, “See, there is no danger! I am not hit!”

Although he later confessed it was the only instance during which he lied to his subordinates, God’s truth merged with the peace He seemed to have already installed in him when Jackson embraced the salvation of Christ not long afterward.  His coolness in battle and life are well known, in no small effort informed by his Reformed interpretation of God's word - it is the very source of his nickname.  Of course, he was human and a perfectionist – he demanded of his sweet wife, who he loved dearly, that his home life “swing on golden hinges” (meaning it had to be super-organized). This peace that passed all understanding built up in Jackson a faith that carried him through a lifetime of hard tragedy (his first wife and child died) and one of the grimmest wars known to humanity.

So, Stonewall comes to mind as 39 ends. After being shot by his own men, suffering severe blood loss, an amputation and pneumonia, the General died on May 10, 1863. In his passing fever, he started to shout out orders then suddenly stopped, saying, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” This is how I plan to turn 40: by allowing God to give the orders and pursing peace – even with some of those clowns who irritate me.

I’ve also cranked up the morning workout. I am a now a jogger, like my father before me. I think subconsciously I want to run by my birthday.