Frank Sinatra has been dead for over 23 years, so many of you many may not even remember him, but way back in 1966 (I was just 13) he released a song entitled “That’s Life” (More recently, Michael Bublé recorded it in 2007). The opening lyrics have been ringing in my head since Tuesday: “That’s life – that’s what all the people say. You’re riding high in April, shot down in May. But I know I’m gonna change my tune when I’m back on top, back on top in June.”
While I am not particularly fond of how the song ends (or of many other things connected to ‘Ol Blue Eyes, aka The Chairman of the Board), another verse states, “I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king. I’ve been up and down and over and out, but I know one thing. Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race.” These words – and this mindset – I like.
I always associated the phrase “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” with Winston Churchill in connection with WW2. Portals of Prayer this week corrected my thinking. It comes from FDR’s inaugural address in 1933 in the context of the Great Depression. As the speech continues, he defines fear itself as “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” He then goes on to say, “In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.” I believe Frank Sinatra, who was 18 years old when FDR coined this phrase, was echoing the thought as he sang, “Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race.”
I see fear itself confronting us on many sides these days. It stymies “vaxxers” and “anti-vaxxers” alike, along with atheists, agnostics, and Christians … and many who are in-between. And from my perspective, to be stymied by fear is just as noxious to society as is hostility and/or shaming.
On Tuesday afternoon I was caught moaning (that is, complaining) about how challenging the previous 72 hours had been for me. The response from a colleague was a simple, “That’s life.” My mind immediately went to Frank Sinatra, and then to Acts 4 (you really must read the entire chapter) when Peter and John were imprisoned overnight and threatened with further, more severe punishment. The response of the believing community was to pray, “Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4.29-30) Rather than being stymied by fear or caught in any acts/attitudes of hostility or shaming, they focused upon bringing healing and hope to all.
The word that they proclaimed with boldness was simply that “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.10-12) This is a great example of “speaking the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4.15)
I read the story in Acts 4, and I say, “That’s life!” – a community (“It takes a village”) responding with love, in the name of Jesus, to the needs of others with the specific objective of bringing healing and hope. Of this same Jesus, John says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1.4-5) That’s life – each time I find myself flat on my face God picks me up and gets me back in the race … no longer complaining about my lot, nor stymied by fear, nor snared by hostility or shaming … simply offering healing and hope in the only “name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – Jesus.
May he so bring healing and hope – that is, life – to you this day … and through you to many others.