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An inauguration we will remember

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Today is one of those days when, out in the future, we’ll say, “I remember when….”

Each of us has a multitude of such days, both personal and as citizens of the United States.

Years from now, we’ll say something like this about today: “I remember when Barack Obama was inaugurated as the nation’s first African American president.”

We may remember this day fondly. Or we may remember it with a tinge of regret — not so much in regard to Barack Obama, but in wondering, How could any man have led America out of the mess we were in?

Time will tell. In the interim, however, our prayers will help make the difference, as will our moral vision, our work ethic, our perseverance and our compassion for those who need a helping hand.

It is a hard to grasp the confluence of all the “I remember when” moments in our lives.

For me:

I remember when, for the first time, I shook hands with a fellow student, in junior high school in Ohio, who was black. I’m embarrassed to say I remember looking at my hand to see if, somehow, it had been affected. I remember deciding that my hand was just fine. Most importantly, I remember feeling that I had grown as a human being that day. In 1968, however, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. left me feeling that I, and we as a nation, had shamefully regressed.

I remember, as a 10-year-old, wearing a campaign button for John F. Kennedy when a neighbor replaced it on my shirt with a Richard Nixon button, telling me in a disapproving tone that Kennedy was a Catholic. I remember watching President Kennedy’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961, on a black-and-white TV with my elementary school classmates at one of their homes. I remember hearing the announcement that Kennedy had been assassinated while I was walking in the hall of my junior high school on Nov. 22, 1963. Years later, I remember watching the various Watergate hearings that culminated in the disgrace of President Nixon’s resignation.

I remember when, for the first time, I had to decide when life really begins. My wife endured surgery for an ectopic pregnancy which ended the life of a tiny human being named Anna Joy. While I was relieved that my wife was still alive, Karen struggled with the life that was lost. A co-worker also understood, and he sent us a sympathy card. I am thankful to my wife, my co-worker and so many others who have helped me grasp the sacredness of human life.

I remember when, during a summer vacation to visit family in rural Mississippi, I heard that Jesus could fill the emptiness in my life. I remember venturing into God’s supernatural realm and asking Him to forgive my sin. I remember inviting Jesus into my life and asking Him to take control of it. I remember many joys this faith has yielded. And I remember my many failures. I remember, and cherish, moments of forgiveness, grace and restoration.

I remember when terrorists flew jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and crashed a jetliner into the side of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. I remember trying to tell our then 9-year-old daughter what had happened and knowing that, in some yet-to-be-seen monumental ways, our world would never be the same.

I remember our sudden economic decline last year and realizing that whatever security my wife and I thought we had was stunningly tenuous. And so far in 2009 it seems to be increasingly tenuous. The only security we have is what we may experience from the Lord in some way that transcends dollars and cents in the days ahead.

Barack and Michelle Obama and their two daughters and all of his supporters and critics will remember this day in various ways.

Here’s how I pray we all remember it: That we Christians prayed for our president and provided a beacon of hope to a reeling nation. That our president — and we as well — grew in moral stature in the eyes of the Lord.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.