|My booth with Through All Ages LLC|
When first hearing of Generations’ Noah Conference in the late spring/early summer, I was not interested. We had been to two of their previous “Family Economics” conferences and I saw no reason to be interested in a third. But then an irresistible bait was presented before me: an opportunity to sell my paper soldiers at the conference. (For more information about my paper soldiers, please visit my business site at www.ThroughAllAges.com) A chance to sell my wares in a part of the country that was not previously aware of Through All Ages LLC! Leaving nothing to chance, I even prepared a new book of ACW Confederates since I was headed south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The first day, I set up my booth and did a somewhat brisk trade in paper soldiers, posters, and postcards. When business slowed in the late morning, a lady came to my table. She was interested in my historical products and explained that she was here, helping some friends run their table. What did they sell? They were an informational booth for a WWII event in south-central Tennessee called Remembering WWII (www.rememberingwwii.com).
Even though I am an American Revolution buff, I had heard of this event before through several Facebook friends. They had attended in various capacities and their photos looked impressive. After all, how many towns in the USA turn themselves into a provincial village in 1940s France? But, despite an interest in WWII, I had little desire to find out more about this event—not just because south-central Tennessee is far, far away. The truth is, I avoided this event as a means of protecting myself from hurt.
|Remembering WWII Promotional Postcard|
At one point in my life, I had been hurt by a few members of a group of people I thought I belonged to. Even though only a few had actually hurt me, I bitterly regarded the entire group for what I considered their betrayal of me. And now this friendly WWII lady was a part of the same group (though she had never hurt me, or even previously known of my existence). Could I regard her bitterly, or at least put on a coldly formal mask to protect myself?
In the Bible, the prophet Ezekiel (under God’s direction) addressed this very issue: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Ezekiel 18:20) This was exactly what I was failing to do: I was blaming the righteous for the wickedness of the wicked. This was the lesson God was going to teach me at this conference, and this friendly reenactor had given me the first piece of it.
Before leaving my table, she invited me to check out her table down the hall. It would have been easy to coldly dismiss her invitation, but she had been very friendly to me—and also had begun to dismantle the misconceptions I had sheltered behind. I wanted to learn a little more about this reenactment (and see the photographs), and God had the second piece of His lesson for me waiting at their table.
My love of history (and lack of customers) drew me through the vendor hall and to Remembering WWII’s table, where I leafed through a scrapbook of pictures. Veterans and reenactors, tanks and motorcycles, singers and civilians were all displayed in photographs. But one page made a deep impression on me. When asked what important lesson he wanted to leave with the attendees, one of the WWII veterans stated: “Forgive everyone.” The text informed me that this man had survived a concentration camp and was left for dead in the Bavarian Alps. Yet with all he had suffered, he advised his listeners to forgive everyone.
Ouch. Here was a man who had been treated brutally, yet knew the power of forgiveness. I had never been treated like this, yet I was refusing to forgive. I needed to forgive and this lesson was becoming more apparent to me as the day had gone on. God had given me two pieces of the lesson and the third piece was on its way.
In the afternoon, customers were elsewhere, and I was left with little to do. Wandering up and down the vendor hall proved uneventful and I drifted back to my booth, only to notice a young lady studying my products. A customer! I hurried over and we got to talking. Our talk quickly diverged from paper soldiers and postcards into Christianity and ethics—specifically how Christianity should impact the actions we perform and the positions we hold to.
This is not unfamiliar territory for me, as I strongly believe that my faith should influence my actions. But I had been scarred because of the use of this concept as a club against myself. In one way, this was ultimately beneficial to me, as I saw that I had done the same thing to others (see my short story “With Truth and Grace” at http://defendingthelegacy.blogspot.com/2015/12/short-story-with-truth-and-grace.html) Unfortunately, I had also shied away from the concept—yet another wall to protect myself.
The conversation tailed off and she went on her way. I am certain that she did not realize the impact this one conversation would have on her listener. After she had walked away, God opened my eyes to a truth that I had been avoiding for too long: I had been building walls to keep others out and protect myself from hurt again. But I could not do this. I had to begin to break down these walls and reach out to others.
I could never have guessed that at this conference, I would learn the importance of forgiveness from three who were not advertised on my conference program. But God knew, and He had planned all this out. I am grateful to those three people for their lessons, and more than that, for the politeness and friendliness of the two whom I met. They could not have known that their friendliness would be used by God to show me the error of my ways and allow me to forgive others. But most of all, I am grateful to God, who kindly—gently—taught me what I needed to learn.
As Paul put it in his Epistle to the Philippians: “Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:20)