Recently Sherrylee and I visited the new George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Of the thirteen official libraries, we have visited all of them except the Hoover and the Eisenhower libraries, which we hope to see soon to complete our quest.
Without exception these libraries and museums are amazing! They tell the story of men who have served their country in the highest office of the land in war and peace, in glory and in shame, but all with a strong commitment to what they believed to be for the common good of the nation. Regardless of whether history has proven them correct or whether you personally were a supporter of that particular president, you leave each library with greater respect for the man and a new perspective on the history that they shaped.
About a year ago, we visited the George H. W. Bush library in College Station, Texas, and one of the very obvious directions of the museum was to show Bush #41 as a man raised in a family of faith and who with wife Barbara attempted to rear their children in faith. I had not known that about Mr. Bush, but was deeply impressed with how overtly this message was presented in the story of his life.
In a different way, I found the same to be true of #43, not so much in the biographical section of the museum, but just as explicitly.
Almost all of the presidential museums have a replica of the Oval Office in the White House as it was during that particular president’s term of office, but the replica in the Bush 43 library is the only one where visitors are allowed to sit behind the desk and actually walk around; one is only allowed to peer into all of the others.
The Oval offices have replica pictures on the walls, replica furniture that the former president had used and even replica family pictures and mementoes. Here is where I was both surprised and impressed in George W’s library. Behind his desk on a credenza sat a replica of his personal Bible for every visitor to notice. In addition, sitting not far from his desk on a spot that he might pass every day of his presidency sat a small, simply framed copy of A Charge To Keep I Have by Charles Wesley.
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
Who gave His Son my soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master’s will!
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
Assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall for ever die.
The first two stanzas apparently spoke to President Bush. Not only is “A Charge To Keep” one of the themes of his library, but you might remember that it is also the title of his book released in 1999.
Both Wesley and Bush take the title words to this hymn from Leviticus 8:35, where Moses delivered to Aaron and his sons the final instructions from the Lord on the establishment of the wilderness Tent of Meeting (tabernacle) and the sacrifices: and keep the charge of the Lord, that ye die not; for so I am commanded.”
I appreciate very much the decision President Bush made to demonstrate his faith in these small ways in his library. Not everyone is charged with being president—or high priest—or any prominent position where we are watched by masses of people, but we are all charged as Paul charged Timothy in his first letter to him:
This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, . . .that you fight the good fight . . . .(1:18)
Wesley’s admonitions in this great hymn will help us: “Arm me with jealous care/As in Thy sight to live,” and “Help me to watch and pray,/And on Thyself rely.”