Janie B. Cheaney – History’s one-way signs


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, June 24th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. The times, they are a-changin’. Bob Dylan wrote that back in 1964 and it sounds still fresh today. Because times are always changing. 

WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney hears the still small voice within all of that change.

JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: I’m old enough to remember when flower children roamed the earth, singing a song about humanity’s new dawn:

We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion-year-old carbon,

And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

We know how that turned out.

Everyone seems to agree that we’re on the edge of seismic change, and the culture we knew will never be the same. The unknown has overtaken us; once again, Utopia is canceled.

Here are some things we probably won’t be going back to, or at least not any time soon: cheap air travel; huge sporting events; restaurant meeting rooms; traditional higher education; urbanization; mega churches; and the careless expectation of a life without risk.

But history is marked with One Way signs at every major intersection. In the beginning we had the perfect life, capped by communion with God himself, and we threw it away. We can’t get back to the garden. Thousands of years ago humans used their longevity to increase in violence and wickedness. Post-flood, we can’t get back to 900-year lifespans. On the plains of Shinar humans employed their technology and communication skills to aspire to the heavens, only to be confounded and scattered through the earth. We can’t get back to Babel.

Human ambitions have collapsed with some regularity, but humanity always claws its way out of the ruins and builds the remains into something new, both for better and for worse. In every case of collapse, we can’t go back. And ultimately that’s to the good, because the God of history is leading us forward. Trying to get back to the garden—an ideal state of harmony and plenty—tends to breed just the opposite.

That’s not to say the future looks rosy. As government waxes in crisis mode, freedom wanes, and yet—the bigger government grows, the more incompetent, leaving gaps to fill. We may be headed for a more controlled economy, but an enterprising, entrepreneurial spirit is buried deep in American DNA. Here are some things that are likely to survive, and even thrive, in the near future: homeschooling, home cooking, teleconferencing and telemedicine, crafts and trades, extended families.

And we may see a smaller church, but also—God willing—a leaner, more energized church whose resources are pared down to the Holy Spirit alone. That’s all the 120 believers in an upper room on the morning of Pentecost had, and they remade history.

“New normal” is a term I’ve come to dislike intensely. It’s said with a sigh of lowered expectations. But God never takes away without also giving. We can’t go back to the garden, but he’s building us a city. In between is a pause—a very pregnant pause. What will we do with it?

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.


(Photo/iStock)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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