Two of my favorite stories hale from past Commanders in Chief of our country and in honor of veterans I share them with you.
Ulysses S. Grant served as our 18th president from 1869-1877. A single man, he arrived at the home of the woman he was courting, Julia Dent. Her family, soon departing to attend a wedding, asked him to join them. In a buggy with Julia, they came to an overflowing creek and a “rickety” bridge. Mr. Grant assured her that all would be well saying, “Now, now. Don’t be frightened.”
“I’m terribly afraid. I’m going to cling to you no matter what happens,” Julia said. And she grasped his arm and wouldn’t let go until they were safely across the bridge. After they crossed, Julia said, “Well, I clung to you didn’t I, Ulysses?”
“You certainly did.” After a moment of silence, he turned to her and said, “How would you like to cling to me for the rest of your life?” Apparently Julia was keen on the idea for they married in 1848. (quotes from Paul F. Boller’s “Presidential Anecdotes”).
The second story is one supposedly told by Abraham Lincoln, and I read it in Carl Sandburg’s “The War Years.” Of course many tales are attributed to Lincoln that probably didn’t originate with him. But he did find comfort in storytelling, especially ones that involved humor. With the burden of the presidency, the Civil War, and his heavy involvement in military strategy, he said one evening that he imagined himself to be “the most tired man in the world.” Humor helped him take a mini-escape from the load he carried.
He told of a “backwoods housewife” with a whole passel of ragtag children playing in her front yard. A wandering preacher came by and tried to sell her a Bible. She took offense at his questions: Shouldn’t every home have a Bible? Did they even own a Bible?
She replied in a sharp tone that of course they owned a Bible. But the overbearing preacher expected her to prove her claim. She hunted in her strewn house and found no Bible. She called in her army of children and they too searched. At last, one of the urchins found a few tattered pages of “Holy Writ” in a cluttered corner and held them up in triumph to the preacher.
The man harrumphed at the wrinkled and bent pages. How could they even think those few pages to be a Bible? The stubborn woman remained firm, and fortified her claim saying, “But I had no idea we were so nearly out!”
The two stories from men behind the rank of President of the United States captured my mind with several phrases and words this week – cling, commander in chief, and the woman who didn’t know she was “nearly out” of the Bible.
I recently read about a northern church in the United States, a congregation of people from Ghana, who relish this new found freedom of worship. This church hopes to bring about a revival of Christianity in their community and across this land. Our forebears saw the wisdom of freedom in worship and speech. They recognized and fought so that we could be assured natural human rights, and Jesus declared that real freedom begins in him, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). The creator of our bodies, minds, and souls will always be our best govern for private and public behavior.
In everyday circumstances and when we are in trouble, our Father, remains bigger than our lives. He “clings” to us! When we cross rising creeks, God shores up rickety bridges and sees us safely to sound shores here or beyond. He remains our Commander in Chief throughout life, and, praise God, he isn’t subject to elections and four-year-terms.
Want to find out more about this best-of-all Commander in Chief? Rummage around in God’s Word and discover comfort in his forever presence. And a Bible at hand – that means you will not be caught “so nearly out.”