As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ Luke 3:4-6 (NIV)
One of our speakers this week is Dr. Ray Smock. He served as the historian for the United States House of Representatives from 1983-1995 and helped to build the Constitutional Center which we will tour tomorrow. It has been interesting hearing him tell about the formation of the Constitution Center and the decisions and strategies that went into its exhibits. As a historian, the temptation was to plaster the walls with text and imagery until reminded that the average museum visitor would be a young couple pushing a stroller with another small child walking beside them. I know from my own work how true that is! He has described several ways that they incorporated families and children into the exhibits to teach the stories about the Constitution and its development, and I cannot wait to see them. Today, to illustrate how the role of government has evolved, he presented several petitions sent to the US Congress from 1790 to about 1803 asking for assistance. They were from the Sandusky Indian Tribe, Nantucket Whalers, Philadelphia umbrella makers and a group of freed slaves in Philadelphia. Each letter detailed the plight of the writer and asked for the help of Congress to solve their problem. The whalers needed their port dredged, the Indians wanted reassurance that their land would not be taken away, the manufacturers desired tariffs to protect American made products, and freed slaves sought protection from slave hunters. The letter from the Sandusky Indians is particularly poignant as they plead, “Fathers Listen. What we ask of our Fathers is but a small matter with them; They have lately bought a great piece of our best hunting ground and will we expect after they have settled that with their white Children, ask us for more of our land. We hope our Fathers will listen to our cry and the cry of our Women and grant us our request. It will make us happy, and not injure our Fathers nor their white Children.” Dr. Smock went on to tell about a conversation he had with Senator Claude Pepper many years ago. Senator Pepper quoted educator, Endicott Peabody, who said, “Remember! Things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the heights – then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward, that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend.” Though some might argue Peabody was not completely right, Pepper continued with some sage advice, “Write about the peaks, but the real story is in the valleys and how you get back up to the peaks.” I am grateful that when I get into the valleys of life, I have a Heavenly Father with whom I may plead my case and that when I look back across my life, I can see His Hand at work on every detail.