Last year was a year of firsts for me, most of them calendar holidays without Nate. Those firsts ended as we passed the one year anniversary of his death in November of 2010. But other firsts have occurred, and tonight was one of them.
Bob and Linda Miller next door invited me to an evening with The Economics Club of Southwest Michigan. This is a members-only organization that meets to hear well-known speakers half-a-dozen times each year. In the club’s 68 years, it has featured:
- Ted Koppel
- Margaret Thatcher
- Elizabeth Dole
- Cal Ripkin
- President Bush 1
- President Bush 2
- Mary Tyler Moore
- Barbara Walters
- Sarah Palin
- John Glenn
- Tony Blair
- Colin Powell
- Julie Andrews
- Peyton Manning
- Gerald Ford
- Barbara Bush
- Laura Bush
- Garrison Keillor
- Bob Woodward
- Bill Clinton
- Bob Newhart
- Tom Brokaw
- Condoleezza Rice
Somebody in The Economic Club must have clout in order to garner such an impressive roster of guests, and there are hundreds more.
As we arrived tonight, there was a police presence, and Bob mentioned that some of the speakers have had security right on stage with them. Tonight we were treated to an evening with Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of England.
As I watched this celebrity answer questions, I wondered about the man behind the deep voice and easy banter. Yes, he’d been a prime minister with global political power, but who was he really, beneath the black suit and silk tie?
When I got home I “googled” him. Although no one mentioned it tonight, today was the one year anniversary of his stepping down from his powerful position as PM. Surely that was on his mind.
I also learned he was married for the first time at 49 and that his first child, a daughter named Jennifer, died ten days after she was born, of a brain hemorrhage. Although two boys quickly followed, one was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis while still a pre-schooler.
Learning of Gordon Brown’s recent tumultuous decade made me long to sit across a small table from him and get beneath his politics to hear his heart. I also wondered how many other Economics Club speakers had dealt with severe disappointment, failure and sadness. Probably all of them.
Life is messy, and our character is strengthened and then proven true through adversity. Does that mean our character is weak without it?
The Bible tells us to “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.” * And in referring to Moses, Scripture says, “The Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character.” **
No matter where we stand on the character continuum, there’s always room for improvement. God is interested in seeing that happen and arranges multiple opportunities for us. Thankfully, his character is stable at the highest level. It never changes and never needs improvement.
Last week a previous Economic Club speaker gave us a peek into his character in an interview with TIME magazine. George Bush #1 was asked what advice he gave his son, George Bush #2, after he left the White House. #1 told #2, “Don’t forget it’s your job to take out the garbage now.”
“God desired to show the unchangeable character of his purpose… We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” (Hebrews 6:17,19)
*Romans 5:3,4 **Deuteronomy 8:2