Family Lessons 104: Make Something of Yourself

Sylvia Airey, my first cousin twice removed, married Jim Howard in 1957. He had attended the Royal Lancaster Grammar School in the forties and went onto Durham University, demonstrating his aptitude. For whatever reason, he quit after a year, and his mother, who was ‘very Irish’ according to my grandmother, threatened to disown him if he did not join the army and “make something of himself”. Sure enough, he took the king’s shilling, joining the King's Own Royal Border Regiment. The army proved the making of him. Serving in Bahrain, Cyprus, Belize, Aden, Germany and Northern Ireland, he climbed the ranks to Captain, Major, Colonel and retired as a Brigadier around 1990. He was awarded CBE in the 1984 Queen’s Birthday Honours. Had he remained at university, he might have had a perfectly respectable though dull career; he might have seen less of the world and I doubt he would have warranted a gong from the Queen. I also suspect he would not have made it onto the august pages of the Family Lessons series of this esteemed blog.

Mr Howard was a natural warrior, rather than an academic, though he certainly lacked none of the latter’s intellect. Making war is something we Christians are called to do, daily. Not against flesh and blood, of course, but against principalities and powers, and against our own sinful natures which frequently leap off the crosses upon which we crucify them. We might not fully comprehend the scriptural doctrines or heavenly economy which procures our salvation, but the battling we understand all too well. Enter heaven as a bruised and battered warrior rather than a pale and sickly scholar: the tales with which you regale the angels for the next million years shall prove rather more interesting.

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8, King James Version

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