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Friday, September 11, 2009

God’s Passive Will

It’s 9/11 and everybody is going to share the day remembering, praying, and looking up in the sky. That was the point after all; To plant fear in our hearts. Many will think about where they were that day. I can tell you where I was, and what I was thinking about, and it, as usual, is a pretty uncanny story.

As usual, the day started at Cow Talk. Then the owner, Larry Eikenhorst told me that the World Trade Center had been hit. No one knew just what had happened. But we all knew what had happened.

I watched a little television to confirm my suspicions, and then went to work. I had been working on a gigantic project out at the Star of the Republic Museum, and work is the best way to deal with grief. As the days passed and the news confirmed our challenge ahead, each day I was staring at a wall, recreating a fallen, nearly forgotten culture. A nation no longer in existence. Just as New York was the economic and cultural headquarters for the United States, Washington on the Brazos served that purpose for Texas, and at times was the capital of the newborn Nation. Texas has always been the outstanding, most recognized state in the Union, and in many ways her people and history were an acorn from the American tree.

Lo and behold, while designing and painting the only Washington on the Brazos cityscape I have ever seen, I discovered another unsettling parallel. As I sketched the outline of the frontier town… the only photos I had to go by, showed a pair of brick three story buildings. They were twin towers. Just old buildings to me, every time I had looked upon the old photos in the past… Even more ironically, they had been built upon the site of the ruins of the old Independence Hall, after it was destroyed by fire a couple of years after the Texas Revolution. They had been razed over a hundred years ago, and some of the bricks were recycled and used to build a new building in Navasota.

I could not help but wonder. I was aware that nothing was left of the old Washington town site except one lonely cistern, made of the same locally made bricks… “No stone had been left unturned.” What had the people of Old Washington done, to have established such an expendable village, which would wither to nothing after such a promising start? It was the Capital of Texas for Pete’s sake! So abandoned was the town, many families chose to move the graves of their forefathers who had been buried there, to more reliable ground. THESE were the Fathers of Texas! This was hallowed ground! How could it all become a blip in history? I thought about these things, as I painted the town, now gone, back into existence.

Buildings went up, people began to wander the streets again, pigs rooting, smoke came out of the chimneys. I lovingly rebuilt that little town, in my mind and on the wall, as I imagined the rescuers digging in the rubble of the Twin Towers and searching for signs of life, and then just searching… all the while my little red brick towers gazing out over the infancy of a republic. The more I painted, and the clearer the town became, the more its tragedy grew as well. Could New York, or our country, be a footnote in the story of man like this pathetic ghost town some day?

I wish I knew whether the story of Old Washington was a random blip, or a graphic warning to us, or worse yet a prophesy of our own future. But it bothers me because I think of Jesus looking out over His capital city, a place close to His heart, crying and foretelling that Jerusalem would come down… like a house of cards, like the would-be Capital of Texas, like the Twin Towers. We have to pay attention to when God allows things, just as much as when He does things. They call it active will and passive will. God’s Passive Will is scarier because He has removed His hand of protection. The people in Jerusalem never saw it coming, in fact they were pretty much destroyed from within. The people of Washington on the Brazos were arrogant and insolent about changing economic conditions, and could not imagine a historic shift of tides. How afraid are we, when the signs are right there in the sky?

I had to wonder, and still do, if someday an artist will be painting New York some day, in much the same manner as I was painting old Washington, lamenting the over-confidence and foolishness that led to its demise. But thankfully we have had a time of grace, purchased in blood by our bravest young men and women, and I do not doubt what destruction they have stalled. And someday they will come home. Let’s pray that we have learned whatever we needed to, to qualify for God’s Active Will, and once again rest under His protective hand, before that day.

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