History is like an expedition, like Lewis and Clark searching for the Northwest Passage. Each generation helps chart the journey with its twists and turns, and each picks up where the other left off.
Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he drafted the Declaration of Independence with the help of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. 50 years later he and John Adams died on the anniversary of the Fourth. Their death marked the end of the generation we know as the “founding fathers.”
I remember as a child when the last veteran of the Civil War died. Albert Woolson was a drummer boy in Company C of the First Minnesota. He died in 1956. At present we are witnessing the departure of what Tom Brokaw called the “greatest generation,” those who lived through World War II. Five years before I was born my mother was on a picnic with my father when President Roosevelt interrupted their 1940s music to report the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She died six years ago. My uncle commanded a tank in the battle of Nuremberg in April 1945. He died four years ago.
Some of us can recall where we were when John F. Kennedy was shot on the streets of Dallas, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed and Robert Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles. Vietnam and Watergate evoke vivid memories. But the young only know these events as history. Those who are seniors in high school were infants on 9/11/2001. They have grown up in a post 9-11 world learning about the Twin Towers attack through stories, video and books. One generation passes while another joins the journey.
Every generation is connected to the generations that went before. But, like an expedition, every generation must find its own way, and each generation must find its own faith. A few years ago I reflected on what I wanted to accomplish with my remaining years. One of those things was to encourage the younger generation to do greater things than I ever imagined. I am pleased to see that happening in many places. More people are coming to Christ every day than at any time in history, especially in South America, Africa and Asia. I am finding many in their twenties and thirties who are passionate about going to the ends of the earth and living transformed lives for Christ.
When God looks on humanity, he sees generations. Following Noah’s flood, God had us in mind when he said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations.” Moses’ success depended on how well he encouraged Joshua, the leader of the next generation that would enter the Promised Land. David sang, “Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.”
The world has never been a safe place. Expeditions are dangerous. We face huge obstacles and challenges, but the potential is limitless. As our generations overlap, we have opportunity to build upon the foundations of faith that others have laid and to create a better world for our children, our grandchildren and those who will follow.