Monday, December 31, 2012



I’m currently reading The Path to Power, the first installment of Robert A. Caro’s three part biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson.   Yes, I know; the book was written in 1981 and I am about 30 years behind in my pleasure reading.   However, I highly recommend the book, though I am not normally given to 800 pages of anything.    But I digress.

Besides being a riveting, and disconcerting, picture of one of the most fascinating political figures of my lifetime, the book reinforces for me a point I made in my 10/27/12 piece, YOU MEAN EVERYBODY GETS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE--FOR FREE?

 It seems that, from almost the moment of his birth, LBJ, or someone close to him, felt he was destined to be somebody really important.  On the day of his birth in 1908, LBJ’s grandfather saddled up his horse and rode through the surrounding farms and towns announcing that a future U.S. senator had been born.   When LBJ was 10 or 12 years old, Caro tells us, he would break into conversations of the older boys he liked to hang out with and tell everyone he was going to be president of the United States.   In 1940, when Mr. Johnson was only 32 years old and in his second term in the U.S. House, he as much as told two of his financial backers that his political ambitions transcended Congress…and Texas.

We all know the rest of the story:  LBJ, with what can only be called a superhuman work ethic and an ambition and ego that was far stronger, finally achieved his ultimate goal, by whatever means necessary, and wound up serving one of the most consequential, yet one of the most troubling and, in many ways, tragic, presidencies in our history.  He died a sad and broken man.

So what does this all have to do with the ideas expressed in my 10/27 post?   President Johnson devoted his whole life, and his considerable talents, to the single-minded purpose of becoming President of the United States.  He sacrificed a lot of things, and a lot of people, in that quest.   He got what he wanted…and it ruined him.

The most immediate reaction would be to question those things we think we need and want and to examine them in light of what God wants for us.   The old adage “Be careful what you wish for” surely applies in his case.   I have come to the conclusion that we should wish for nothing, or for very little, and instead just let God have His way with us.   I have no idea what I want or what I should do, and I‘m no kid.   I pray for knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry that out, but I’m not even sure the first part of that prayer is necessary; I don’t have to know what God’s will is for me…I just have to carry it out by seeking whatever guidance He sees fit to give me and the willingness and the ability to do the next right thing.   When I was young, I thought I knew what I wanted, at least in a general sense, and went after it with everything I had, albeit far less talent, intelligence, energy, and, yes, ruthlessness and amorality, than LBJ had in such abundance.   I never achieved those things that seemed to be the only things that mattered, and the pursuit of them had nearly horrific consequences.  I did, however, get far better gifts without any planning or contemplation; they just happened and I could have never in a million years planned or predicted them; I didn‘t even want many of them.  Perhaps Mr. Johnson, and the country and the world, would have been better off if he had similarly let God make his life decisions for him.

The second reaction to LBJ’s pursuit is a bit more esoteric and more directly related to my 10/27 post.   LBJ worked like hell to become president, and he did manage to become only the 36th man to achieve that lofty and seemingly impossible, from looking at the odds, goal.   And one supposes that being president would be a great achievement, a lofty goal, a towering position, and many more superlatives that are impossible to enumerate.  But…

All of you (Some might say “some of you,“ or “many of you,“ but I am quite comfortable with saying “all of you,“ but, again, I digress.) reading this will achieve a goal, a position, or a place, far greater than the presidency of the United States:  We will all be with God in heaven and that will be an immeasurably better place, a more sublime goal, than being president of the United States.  There won’t be only 44 of us who achieve this goal, and it will take nothing like the effort that LBJ, or any man who held the office he so craved, dedicated to achieving what is, by comparison, a quite insignificant perch.   Indeed, we will “achieve” this goal through no achievement of our own; we will win our place with God through faith in Him and in His Son.   Simple, really.

That we can achieve so much, indeed the most important thing we can achieve or can imagine, with so much less effort than was expended by those who sought what is in comparison quite an insignificant position offends our human sense of fairness.   We bust our hindquarters for the things that we think are really important, even if not as important as being the most powerful person on earth, and yet we get the most important thing for free.  It just doesn’t seem right.   But then our ways are not His ways.  And we will never fully understand His ways until we join Him for eternity in heaven…if then.

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