Since the death of our 41st President last Friday through his burial in Texas today, the news has been filled with stories of his service to our country – from being the youngest aviator in the Navy at the age of 18 through his service as our Commander in Chief for a four year term. In fact, President Bush served as the country’s Vice-President for eight years under President Reagan before being elected to the highest office in the land in 1988.
But amid all the pomp and circumstance of his death and multiple services held in Washington and in Houston, what is more important than all the offices he held is how he lived his life and his faith in Jesus. Although he had a Christ centered life, President Bush didn’t wear his religion on his sleeve. Rather, he demonstrated his faith in God through the actions he took for more more than 70 years serving his country and his fellow man.
He was married to Barbara for 73 years and is the last of the WWII aged men to serve as our President. Furthermore, he treated the White House Staff as members of the Bush family – not as the servants who were there to deliver his every request or order. There have been many “human” moments during our final good-byes to Bush 41. His children and grandchildren have told stories about being sons and daughters of such a famous man and it is well known that he and Barbara were deeply in love throughout their 73 years of marriage.
In countless photos, the two of them can be seen holding hands – regardless of where they were. Their commitment to one another and to family even superseded their role as leaders of the free world. Several interesting facts have come out during this time. For example, it is the first time in history that a former President was present at the funeral of his father, another President.
While another father/son combination served as Presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, communications were slower in those days. The senior Adams died on July 4, 1826, the same day as Thomas Jefferson and fifty years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. His son was President at the time and was unable to get back in time to attend the funeral of his father. So the Bush family holds the distinction of being the first Presidential family to experience this sorrow so publicly.
Another closely held family memory was the death of Robin, the Bushes little girl who died at the age of three back in 1953. When asked about that time in his life, the elder Bush broke down and started weeping when interviewed some time ago on the subject of his daughter’s death. While the interviewers offered that they wanted to know Bush’s heart, he ended the statement by stating that nobody could know another’s heart until you knew what broke it. It was quite a profound moment and one that won’t be soon forgotten.
The verse for tonight speaks of our hearts as they relate to God. As we age and assume a posture of frailty, it is important that we stay focused on God and love Him throughout all the years of our lives. For sure, it breaks the heart of God when we fail to accept His free gift of salvation or when we stay from our focus on Him. The psalmist tells us, in Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
My encouragement this evening is that God wants our hearts to love Him with everything we have to offer – just as He has loved us more than we can imagine. My prayer is that President Bush has started his eternal rest with Barbara, their daughter Robin, and past generations of the Bush family who will patiently wait for others to eventually join them, and us, in heaven. Rest in Peace, President Bush, and thank you for being a beacon of light for us in a fallen world. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…