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Last night, President Trump announced a new strategy for winning America’s longest war.
Our troops have been in Afghanistan for almost sixteen years; more than two thousand American soldiers have died there. The president plans to deploy more troops to continue training Afghan forces, with the goal of defeating the Taliban and securing the country.
Meanwhile, the news has been dominated by the first total solar eclipse to be seen coast to coast in America since 1918. Millions of people watched what the Associated Press is calling “the most-observed and most-photographed eclipse in history.”
I was one of them. I was also one of the millions who watched the president’s speech live.
I could have read about either event after it happened. Viewing them personally changed neither of them. It’s not as though I had nothing else to do.
Why, then, was watching the eclipse and the president’s address as they occurred so important to me?
There is something in us that wants to witness history. We want to be part of the big events, the significant moments that will be discussed far into the future.
I still remember when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and President Nixon resigned and the US hockey team won the Winter Olympics. When I was in Berlin recently, I was surprised to see that the city still marks where the Berlin Wall stood, nearly thirty years after it came down.
We want to be part of history in large part because we know that our lives will one day be history. We are all one day closer to death than we’ve ever been. We want today to count because we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
In Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari documents the growing number of investors and inventors committed to delaying and even eradicating death. He cites Google, which is investing 36 percent of its $2 billion portfolio in life science start-ups, including several intended to extend life and even eliminate death. And he quotes the award-winning scientist Ray Kurzweil, who predicts that anyone with a healthy body and a healthy bank account will be able to cheat death by 2050.
Imagine that we could keep our bodies from dying due to disease and aging. Even then, our death is just a car wreck or jogging accident away. And after death comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
On that day of days, what will matter is not the history you witnessed but the history you made.
Last Sunday was Francis Asbury’s birthday. The Methodist missionary was born on August 20, 1745. Asbury rode 300,000 miles on horseback and preached over 16,000 sermons across forty-five years. As a result, Methodist churches in America grew from 1,200 members to 214,000 members with 700 ordained ministers.
David Livingstone, the missionary to Africa, said, “I will go anywhere, as long as it is forward.” Can you say the same?