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Placeholders for a World that No Longer Exists

When World War II broke out in Europe, all of the major powers had to move quickly to muster their armed forces, and all available weapon systems had to be utilized. In the case of the British Army, this meant re-activating equipment that had not been used since the Boer War in South Africa a half-century earlier. One piece of light artillery in particular had an interesting firing procedure. Per the operating manual, five men were assigned to fire the cannon. But two members of the crew were required to perform an odd ritual. When the piece was loaded and ready to fire, two members of the crew would snap to attention and remain this way until after the cannon launched its round. The artillery officers were baffled by this routine and saw no need for those two men. Finally, a long-retired artillery officer was called in to watch the firing procedure. After viewing the crew fire the cannon several times, he exclaimed, “I have it. They are holding the horses.”

During the Boer War, horses were still the principal means of transporting artillery and moving it into firing position. This particular light–artillery piece would have required two horses, and therefore two soldiers had to hold the reins of the horses during the firing of the weapon to keep the animals from running off. Horses had long since been phased out, but the five–man crew was left intact. This meant that two of the five men functioned merely as placeholders. (From Jonah Goldberg, “Dan, Done,” National Review, March 28, 2005.)

The challenge for us to day is to recognize the areas in which we need to change, to stop being placeholders, so as to maximize our impact in the world as followers of Jesus Christ. Change is inevitable. We must move forward with Jesus lest we lose our true reason for living and end up reaching for the reins of a horse from yesteryear.

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