Towards the end of last week something extraordinary happened. A young man that I met a seven or eight years ago was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy. When I met him he was a somewhat directionless college student and it has been amazing to watch him become a man. When the pictures of his swearing in began to appear on Facebook (it was rightfully a family-only event) you could see the changes his training had wrought in his face. I cannot imagine how thrilled his family was, given how impressive I found the whole thing. Needless to say, the comments piled up under the pictures.
The next day he posted his thanks. He described his commissioning as the “most humbling experience of his life.” That’s when I knew he had not just become a adult, but a good man. How many of us would respond to an achievement like completing Officer Candidate School by being humbled? That’s the nature of national service though. Our military men and women accomplish more than most of us can dream of, but they do not do so for the ego-boost they receive from that accomplishment. They do so to serve the nation. Had me thinking all weekend.
Most of us are never presented with the opportunity to serve the nation in that particular fashion, but as I contemplated it it occurred to me that each of us is given the opportunity to serve the nation every couple of years – it’s called voting. At least if that is the attitude we carry into the voting booth. Given the way most candidates run their campaigns, one would have to conclude that most of us think of our vote as a means of self-expression. But in reality it is a service.
As I thought about that, Proverbs 11:2 came to my mind:
When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
But with the humble is wisdom.
That is a pretty stark statement – humility and wisdom come hand-in-hand. If we vote as self-expression, we do not vote with humility and our vote is not a wise vote. If we vote seeking what is best for the nation, which will almost certainly means some things will not go our way, we begin to exercise humility and we begin to vote wisely.
OCS is a lot of hard work. So is voting with wisdom and humility. It is more than a matter of watching TV, or listening to your favorite talk show, and deciding who you “like.” It is not about who you would feel most comfortable having a beer with, or who you think is most like you. This nation confronts some very real, very hardcore, issues – national defense when our enemy is not a nation and not on a battlefront – relatedly, border security and immigration policy – unsustainable budget deficits – hugely shifting moral standards…. It is not enough to know what you think about such things – what do others think and why? It takes humility to ask that last question and it is where wisdom starts.
This weekend just past saw two things happen in this election. One, the death of Antonin Scalia brought the stakes into extraordinarily sharp focus. Two, it turned very ugly and very personal. This second happening is a move away from humility and wisdom. I tend to think such occurred because it is how the candidates think they can reach us.
It is my hope that with the stakes now so sharply in focus, we will stop thrashing around trying to prove our rectitude. It is my prayer that with the stakes now so sharply in focus we will respond with humility and from that humility develop wisdom. If we do that, the candidates that follow will be the candidates that have proven themselves right for the job.