House burning dawn

I heard the song 1933 by Frank Turner while running my dog and listening to Punk Tacos Radio on iHeartRadio. [Yes, I said running my dog — my Shih Tzu, Beaux, and I jogging through the neighborhood. It’s quite a Saturday morning event for both of us. And, yes, I’m a middle-aged man who loves punk rock.] The song is a commentary on surviving the terrible events of 1933 and then repeating the same mistakes in later generations. Want to hear some 1933 highlights?

  • there was 25.2% unemployment (the worst during the Great Depression)
  • Adolf Hitler became the chancellor of Germany and opened the first concentration camp at Dachau
  • prohibition was repealed
  • the US banking system was on the brink of collapse
  • the Midwest drought and dust bowls continued

The 1933 lyrics are all exceptional, but here’s the line that struck me.

Don’t go mistaking your house burning down for the dawn

This reminds me of a mistake we (okay, maybe just me) commonly make in our relationship with God. Far too often, we trust our circumstances as the barometer for our life-health. Am I succeeding in my job? Are my kids doing well in school? Do I have lots of friends? We use our situation to verify that we are good, that we’re living life correctly. Conversely, when things go wrong, we spiral down into self-recrimination and hopelessness. I’m a middle-aged man with kids in high school and college and I’ve lost my job. My spouse was unfaithful. My son gets high every day.

Listen: your circumstances are neither your salvation nor your damnation. My favorite story from the Bible is the parable Jesus taught about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). There are actually two sons. The younger brother requests his inheritance early and promptly squanders it in wild and irresponsible living. He ends up feeding pigs. Trust me, this was not his intended destination. And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house.” (Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime) Yep, I’ve been that guy.

The older brother remains at home and oversees his father’s household. He believes that he has earned credit and honor for his obedience. He’s a legalist and is living life without mercy, compassion, or love. Rules are his god. Check, I’ve been that guy, too.

Neither circumstance defined me, though. What defines me (and you) is the story’s climax.

And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

It is the grace extended to us through our belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior that provides our sunlit dawn. You are so loved! I’ll leave you with this promise penned by the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16 MSG)

About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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