Five hundred years ago next week, Martin Luther inadvertently started a movement that not only shook the 1500s, but continues to impact our world today in significant ways. While I am no expert on Luther and his theology, the long-lasting effects of his actions strike me as very powerful. Little did he know or expect that his stands and writings would still be shaping the world five hundred years later. He not only became the recognized leader of the Protestant Reformation, but others followed his trail and expanded it with additional paths that pressed into new areas.
As I pondered the incredible longevity of his reforms, I was also reminded of other individuals throughout history whose actions continue to impact us today. Alexander the Great, St. Augustine, George Washington, Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill, and so many more. Their actions and convictions not only shaped the times in which they lived, but they continue to affect our own lives in many ways even though we are largely unaware of them.
It also occurred to me that there are many others whose names we do not know, but whose actions have also rippled down through the centuries. For example, the unnamed Indian who first blazed the path that later became The Great Wagon Road that today is Route 11, or the Valley Pike. Why are turns located where they are? Why are other stretches straight and long? For whatever reasons, the individual, and later those who followed him or her, established a path that thousands now travel every day. Whether it is the best possible route through the valley is debatable, but regardless, it endures as the current path and we have all followed it and are indebted to its first travelers.
Later, as Interstate 81 was mapped out and constructed, several civil engineers, unknown to us today, selected a route that was later finessed by politicians and bureaucrats to yield a road that handles an enormous traffic load each day. Those decisions made sixty or more years ago dictate not only the highway, but also the commerce, construction, and tourism within the county and state. Did the original planners understand how significantly their decisions would become and how long their influence would endure? I doubt it.
In larger or smaller ways, we each clear a swath as we travel through life. Even while following those cleared by others, we too create paths for those who will follow us. Although our names may never be as famous as Luther or Washington, we each have opportunities to shape the futures of others. We each are granted a machete and so many years wherein we can make a way for those who come behind.
Those privileged to be parents have special chances to blaze paths for their children and grandchildren. As they mature, they may or may not follow them closely, but it is incumbent upon us to set good examples for them in every area of life. Not only is faith passed down from generation to generation but so are such things as work ethics, methods of personal interrelation, honesty or dishonesty, financial management, drug and alcohol use and so much more. Who knows who the original trailblazers were in each of our families and which individuals expanded and widened those trails since for our benefit?
As we get dressed each morning and prepare to go about our daily tasks, may we consider well the directions we choose and the routes we forge. May we boldly clear pathways not only for ourselves, but for those who will follow us five hundred or more years from now, if the Lord tarries.
Blazing ahead, George