Archives For September 2012

The Lessons from Lincoln

September 14, 2012 — Leave a comment

For most of my life I wondered why there wasn’t a quality movie that captured our beloved 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Thank God we are almost there. From what I have learned, this movie was not easy to make. Many have tried to capture Lincoln and the challenges he faced, endured, and overcame in his life and presidency.

Doris Kearns Goodwin paved the away with her outstanding storytelling of the relationship Lincoln had with his cabinet members during the Civil War in the acclaimed book Team of Rivals (Simon & Schuster, 2006).  Well, our prayers were answered when Steven Spielberg to direct this story and classic method actor Daniel Day-Lewis. I was in tears watching the movie trailer and you’ll see why. The movie is simply called Lincoln (2012).

The movie comes out this November, after our national election. I wish it could come out sooner to help the political climate but I can also understand why this will be more successful releasing then. No matter who wins this election, there will be a heated political climate and perhaps this movie will help unite in the spirit of Lincoln.

There is so much we can learn from our beloved Abraham Lincoln. One of my favorite things I learned about Lincoln in college was that when he would get so frustrated with his generals or another politican, he would sit down and write them a letter. I can imagine that letter would be filled with all sorts of frustration, perhaps even a cuss word or two. After he finished those letters, he would simply put it in his desk or throw it away. He would never send it. What a lesson in restraint while letting your emotions be released. No matter your occupation, try practicing that for a while and you’ll be amazed in how much it helps.

Lincoln is the Jesus of politics. We quote him a lot. We adore him in pictures. We work his name into conversations, letters, and speeches. We rarely practice what he preached, unfortunately. If we were to sum up Lincoln in lessons to learn, it would be the following:

Faith. Unity. Patience. Passion. Sacrifice. Perseverance.

Walt Whitman’s poem O Captain! My Captain! was a beautiful yet somber ode to our dear President after he was assassinated. It is a reminder to never forget what we have learned from him and appreciate his sacrifice for us.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;

What Lincoln teaches me today is that unity and standing up for what is right can both exist. It is not over-idealistic. It can happen even despite great difficulties and if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth fighting for in life. As we approach yet another heated election I pray for all of us to calm our rhetoric and look back to what our Captain has taught us.  Thank you O Captain.

What have you learned from President Abraham Lincoln? What excites you about this movie? 

P.S. I’m also excited about Stephen Mansfield’s book about his faith coming out at the same time, Lincoln’s Battle with God (Thomas Nelson, 2012). Stephen will be the absolute best person to tell Lincoln’s story of faith.

The scene was this. I took a morning bus ride from Edinburgh to Glasgow. I was to either stay in the confines of beautiful Edinburgh, complete with medieval history and beautiful scenery, or I could make my way to Glasgow, a city full of the unknown. Glasgow was a city that most tourist maps encouraged you to skip or simply wrote that it was a scene of a 50 people being trampled in a football (soccer) match or was a place you had to go through to make it to the west highlands. That was exactly why I needed to be there. Edinburgh was safe. Glasgow was wild.  Besides, I had already been to Edinburgh many times and it was time to move forward. It was time to go away. Away from my fellow Americans. Away from the Away from the expected.

Once I arrived in Glasgow after a short bus trip, I had picked out a hostel to stay in that night and got in a taxi to take me a couple of miles to a beautiful Victorian area overlooking Kelvingrove Park called Park Terrace. Within a minute, I learned that the hostel was full. Glasgow the type of city that only had a one or two hostels because it didn’t attract many cheap post-college students like me. Those who bypassed Glasgow were in essence smarter than me. I was disappointed that the only hostel I knew in town was full but when I stepped outside, the taxi had left and I was left with all my bags on my shoulders to look over the misty and shadowy Kelvingrove Park and see gothic-looking Glasgow University on the other side. Glasgow University is a place that only Tim Burton or J K Rowling could have dreamed of. I looked into the depths of the park and fear crept up on me.

So I began walking through the park, through the valley, over the Kelvin river, and up the next hill to meet the university steps. I quickly found another taxi that helped me find another hostel next to campus and that became my home for the next couple months.

Within a week I got a job at a coffee shop and took up a research position at Glasgow University. God had provided. My journey in Glasgow left me inspired and each time I feel afraid to take a step, I think back to the prayer I said to God at the site overlooking Kelvingrove Park. Take a look above. It is mysterious and daunting but there is something in it that says “go there” and see.

Much like how C.S. Lewis was portrayed in the play and movie Shadowlands (1993), I felt like I was recovering from years of safety and comfort and doing what was expected of me.

Considering the extreme challenges I know so many friends of mine have suffered, it would be insensitive of me to make you think it was a grand sacrifice of mine to go to Glasgow. In fact, I knew that even something happened, I could simply get on a plane and go home. No one told me but something about what happened in Glasgow is that it was necessary to experience discomfort and in some instances, suffer. The same goes for love and any other adventure in life as C.S. Lewis experienced. In the movie, Jack (Lewis) shares,

Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.

Pain is part of life. I can’t explain it completely except that it seems natural and necessary in our development as people. After all, Christ suffered for us so who are we to think that we shouldn’t suffer even a fraction of what he experience? Years before the loss of his wife, Lewis described in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe that we must move our way through the dark wardrobe to enter the land of adventure, Narnia. It requires opening the dark door and forcing ourselves through until we see the light.

Tell me about an experience you had when you felt you truly stepped into the unknown. Was there fear, pain, victory, etc.? 

What did God teach you through that experience?