We’re in the first few days of 2021 – a brand new year – after a difficult and tumultuous 2020. However, as I reflect, my mind is not drawn to last year, but much farther back, even four decades. It’s hard to imagine that on this day 40-years ago, 1980 had just ended and 1981 had just begun.
Here are some things I remember (and some I had to Google… ????). In 1980, Iran held captive 52-American hostages for 444-days that captivated the evening news. Iran also went to war with Iraq that would kill over one million people. Ronald Reagan was the Republican nominee for president and was labeled racist, anti-women, and anti-environment. Mount St. Helens exploded showering the Northwest and Upper Midwest with volcanic ash. There were several severe earthquakes in California and Italy. The U.K. erupted with racial riots in many major cities caused by a distrust of the police. There were hijackings by terrorist groups, and a severe heat wave in the U.S. that killed 1,113. In December 1980, John Lennon was shot and killed, and the world mourned. And then in 1981, the CDC issued a report regarding a new mysterious virus that was killing people across the globe, soon identified as AIDS, and the world went into a panic.
Anything sound familiar there?
And yet, while all the above events were significant, gripping our nation and world, that’s not what I remember most. It’s not what I feared the most. Forty years ago (1980/1981), I was a junior in high school. While our Social Studies teacher kept us aware of the above tragedies through “current event” assignments, it was the slight, but palpable fear of when would the world end in thermonuclear war? Every news station in the world consistently told us that the U.S. and Soviet Union both had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over, and both sides had their fingers on always on the launch button. In school, we practiced drills in the event those buttons were pushed.
As a 16-year-old struggling Christian teenager, one of my favorite rock bands in 1980 was Pink Floyd who released “The Wall” album the year before. I remember relating to the song “Another Brick in the Wall” (we don’t need no education… or thought control). It was the quintessential teenage rebellion song of its time. And yet the most frightening lyric to me on that album was the opening line of another song, “Mother, do you think they’ll drop the bomb?” It still stirs fearful memories.
The fear of the world ending by nuclear war was always present in the back of everyone’s mind, proven by movies like “The Day After” (1983), Red Dawn (1984), and the song “99 Red Balloons” (1983), all which gave graphic detail of cities melted by fusion detonations and nuclear snow. Sometimes, when I was outside in gym class, I would look up into the sky wondering if we would see the ICBM contrails milli-seconds before the bright light and tens of thousands of degree heat vaporized our bodies. Some ignored or downplayed the threat. Others were patriotic about it, not caring if they die as long as “we” won. But for people like me, it was just a mild, but ever-present fear of self-extinction.
Did you notice that I began that last paragraph by stating I was a Christian? (There is a point to this). I had confessed my sin and asked Jesus to forgive me at 10-years old in 1974. Growing up, I was taught by faithful teachers in a bible-believing church through my school-age years. But on this day in 1981, I was a struggling Christian teenager trying to figure out the world, what God was doing in it, and how all this fit together with what the Bible was teaching me that He’s doing. My fears were real. The world was in chaos. It was all around us. And yet my Bible teachers were faithfully telling me:
- God is in control.
Ephesians 1:11 – 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
- He is the restorer of my soul.
Psalm 23:3 – 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
- He is my fortress of protection.
Psalm 125:2 – As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.
- I am not to fear.
Deuteronomy 31:8 – 8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
- He has given me His peace.
John 14:28 – 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Any many other promises with uncountable, supporting passages, verses, and examples…
And now, here we are 40-years later, in 2021. So much happened in the last year that was unexpected; things that have changed our life and will have lasting effects, even damaging effects. And yet, there are many more things happening that we’re learning to cope with and manage through, just as we did when the world closed in on us 40-years ago… and when you think about it, generally speaking, it was the same for Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Peter, John, James, and Paul.
This is what it means to live life in the world in the 21st century… technologically different from 2,000-years ago, but really no different spiritually or relationally. God’s promises, lived out by the men and women of the Bible (by the power of the Spirit), have never failed, and offer absolute hope for eternity. Those men and women lived through so much, were faithful in honoring God, and were rewarded for it. We are challenged to live the same.
Roger Waters, who wrote the lyrics to “Another Brick in the Wall”, described “the wall” as the emotional barrier he built around himself to protect him from the realities of the world. I understand what he’s talking about, however, I would suggest a different meaning for “the wall”. I see “the wall” as something built by Satan that blocks people from recognizing the truth of who God is and what He’s done for us, intending to keep them from trusting Him with everything. Satan is building walls using every threatening circumstance and event he can think of to block of us from the reality of a Most High God.
The realities of our modern day are nothing more than just bricks in Satan’s wall. Sexuality and sensuality are bricks in the wall. The most recent racial tensions are a brick in the wall. Defunding the police, Trump-ism, Biden/Harris, transgenderism, abortion rights, etc., etc., are just more bricks in the wall. Covid-19 is just another brick in the wall in the same way as thermonuclear war was a brick in the wall. It’s designed to keep you mentally and emotionally spun up, in fear, and not seeing or believing that a most generous and gracious God is calling out to you. He holds affections for you, most notably seen in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, Jesus Christ.
So, take it from someone who’s lived a little. I haven’t seen it all. In fact, there are many brothers and sisters who’ve seen and experienced much more and responded better than I have. But I’ve seen and experienced enough to convince me absolutely that Jesus is Lord overall and God the Father raised Him the dead. There is a spiritual realm that overlays and drives this physical world, and our God, the Most-High God, is sitting on His throne, and he decides all that happens.
Therefore, I encourage you at the beginning of this new year to consider something maybe different than the last year. Tear down that mental/emotional barrier you’ve built to protect yourself from the realities of this world but keeps you from seeing and trusting God. Build a new wall. Only this time, use bricks made from the eternal promises of God. This new wall has real power, more than enough to protect, support, and uphold you forever. It takes time and effort to tear down old walls and build new ones, so put in the time. You will never regret that you did.
And if you need help, get in touch with me. I know a Great Builder who loves to build things. We can build together.