In the first World War, soldiers in the trenches on both sides would sometimes give themselves a non-fatal wound (intentionally shooting themselves in the foot, whilst making it appear as an accident, being a favorite). The purpose was to get themselves medically repatriated and out of the way of possible more serious harm, or death in action.
The Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms defines the idiom, “shoot yourself in the foot” as to inadvertently make a situation worse for yourself; demonstrate gross incompetence — in other words, to cause oneself difficulty; to be the author of one’s own misfortune.
Often I hear people use the term, “he has shot himself in the foot” to refer to someone who has unintentionally harmed his own interests whilst in the process of trying to damage someone else. In light of that exhaustive definition, I believe therein lies a great lesson for our nation and its inhabitants today.
We as a nation, the United States of America, have enjoyed unprecedented success. And there is a very good reason — we started out on the right foot. It’s who we are; it’s who America is. America is only a mere four percent of the world’s population and yet, this nation has given more than any other nation to missions and disaster response, taken in more refugees, sent more of its young men and women to war defending the freedom of others, created more opportunities for freedom and given the world more inventions, medical technology and medicines than all others nations in recorded history.
I believe the reason is that God has been honored here more than anywhere else in history! Again... good footing.
“Those who believe that this country’s founding principles are what gave us the greatest nation on Earth must work together to keep her great. Our future is too important to leave anyone out of the fight,” writes Kay C. James, president of the Heritage Foundation.
She continues, “We must unite in common purpose against those who mean this nation harm. We must fight for those principles that gave us the freest, most prosperous nation on Earth. And we must fight to fulfill the promises of our forefathers and to pass on to our children and our children’s children a nation that’s at least as free as the one we inherited. History and the infinite sacrifices of those who came before us have left that sacred obligation in our hands. America and her generations yet to come deserve no less than our fullest commitment to seeing it through.”
Starting out with good footing is one thing, a continued commitment to stand firm is another.
Good footing begins, I believe, on the inside of a person. The condition of the heart is what matters most. Good footing spiritually begins and ends with Jesus. The Savior’s words from the Sermon on the Mount have long been a favorite verse of mine, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
When we desire to be as close to our Lord as possible in every area of our lives, we are stable, but when we allow a distance to develop between us and the Savior, then we run the risk of getting hurt ourselves and even hurting others. Good advice for an individual... and for a nation!
I really want to be a good steward of this gift of freedom! I have often said in response to those who ask me why I speak out and address cultural issues so passionately. I do not want my grandchildren to look at me 20 years from now and ask the question, “Papaw why didn’t you say or stand for truth when you could have?” On an incredibly greater scale, when it comes to the end of my life, I do not want the God of Heaven to ask me why I didn’t stand and proclaim His truth to the world in the season He has entrusted to my stewardship.
The right footing is essentially in finishing well. A great start matters little when followed by a poor finish and remember, we are imagining things if we think that our behavior doesn’t affect our finish.
Finally, great finish is accomplished by careful attention to Godly things. I have a picture in my office of Tanzanian marathon runner John Stephen Akhwari, who lost the race in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, yet is still a hero in the hearts of millions. Not long after the start of the marathon at the Mexico Olympics, he fell down and was badly injured. When he limped into the stadium on bloody and bandaged legs an hour after the winner of the race had left, there were only a few spectators remaining in the stands.
When asked why he didn’t retire from the race, Akhwari’s answer is calm and simple, “My country didn’t send me to start the race, they sent me to finish it!” Lord may we with sure footing stand strong. And Lord, help us to not shoot ourselves in the foot. There is just too much at stake!
Tim Throckmorton is the Midwest Director of Ministry for the Family Research Council, who writes a weekly column published in The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.