Knowing When to Stop
From the Gettysburg PO (Seminary President's Office)
by Seminary President Michael Cooper-White firstname.lastname@example.org
All wars eventually do end. Sadly, like ballplayers who have clung to nose-diving careers or singers who can no longer hit the high notes, war-makers so often fail to recognize when it’s time to stop (which is usually when the violence is still escalating).
But its time to stop.
An elderly doctor friend of mine reflected a while back on when he knew it was time to close his practice that spanned nearly a half-century: “When the phone calls at home on Sunday became a burden rather than a welcome opportunity to help another hurting soul, I knew it was time to stop.” We’ve all known performers, players, practitioners and even some preachers who didn’t recognize their time to conclude a career had arrived.
Usually, it isn’t pretty when someone outstays their abilities. An aging athlete (and this usually means ball players still in their 30’s) hangs on too long, gets badly injured or is embarrassed as the batting average slides ever lower and he’s benched by younger players who can deliver at the plate. Far more serious are the cases where a surgeon’s eyesight or skill of hand has deteriorated, perhaps to the point where a colleague in the operating room has to offer a firm word of reproof or file a wrenching report.
In some arenas, the potential risk of professionals going beyond their time is strictly regulated. Many airline pilots continue to chafe at the mandatory age-60 retirement regulations; others conclude that the FAA’s policies are based upon realistic generalized conclusions about the natural slowdown in reaction time and other factors.
From my experience participating in and guiding planning processes in many contexts over the years, I recognize that organizations and congregations often have great difficulty envisioning that things can be different than they are at present. It’s not just that they find it hard to begin new ventures; the more challenging part is often to stop doing some things that have outlasted their original purposes and no longer serve the mission. When we engaged in a planning process for the Seminary a half-dozen years ago, a question posed to multiple focus groups was: What programs that the Seminary currently conducts should we stop doing? Of all our inquiries, that one received the fewest responses.
Amidst the current killing and devastation wrought by Israel in Lebanon, there are growing calls for a cease-fire. So too do many choruses in this country and around the world crescendo in calling for an end to the war in Iraq. Thus far the calls go unheeded—by our government and by the Israelis and Hezbollah as well.
All wars eventually do end. Sadly, like ballplayers who have clung to nose-diving careers or singers who can no longer hit the high notes, war-makers so often fail to recognize when it’s time to stop (which is usually before violence is first perpetrated). The tragic consequences on the battlefield are far greater than an embarrassing performance on the ball field or even in the operating theater. Both combatant soldiers and innocent civilians are slaughtered by the thousands. In this venue of public theology, I now join my voice with the rising tide of others in saying that in Lebanon, Iraq and throughout the Mideast, it’s time to stop.