Who’s gonna fill their shoes?

Published 7:35 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The country singer George Jones may not be everyone’s cup of tea. He has been around since the 1950s and, although his time has passed as a major star, his records remain, and if one would like to hear the quintessential, male country singer and song, find a copy of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

That’s a great song and was the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year for two years running, 1980 and 1981. Only one other song has been song of the year for two consecutive years. I won’t tell you its name; you can tell me when you see me!

Today, though, I want to write about another George Jones song that, in my opinion, tops the one I just mentioned. It’s a song called “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes.”

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The song is about country music and singers, most of whom have died. Their music and singing weren’t simply good from a technical point of view or judged from whether they made a lot of money. The singers’ places in our collective consciousness came about because they could “tear our hearts out when they sang.”

Conway Twitty was mentioned in the song by reference to only two words, “Hello Darling.” Many people can try, but no one can say those two words quite like he could. The Man in Black (Johnny Cash), The Okie from Muscogee (Merle Haggard), Luke the Drifter (Hank Williams) and others are mentioned in the song and we are called to recognize that some entertainers are chosen to be larger than others.

The song asks, “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?”

One of the great privileges of being a pastor is that one of being called upon to speak of others at funerals. I call it a privilege instead of a task. A task is defined as a tedious or difficult undertaking. A privilege, on the other hand, is a bestowed honor or opportunity.

Most of the times these sacred moments are for those who have lived long and blessed lives. Just recently our family lost a dear one who had lived 80 years. She had fulfilled her purpose in life with great faith and had brought joy and goodness to everyone she knew.

Someone spoke of the difficulty that this privilege might bring to me and that he didn’t know how I could do this time and time again. I tell you the truth. To speak words of joy and blessing about someone who has been a joy and blessing to so many is not a real difficult thing to do for me. As I mentioned earlier, it is an honor and God provides.

After the funeral of my aunt another came and we spoke of her. Our conversation led us to realize that my aunt’s generation is passing naturally and quickly. We wondered together, “who’s gonna fill their shoes?”

The generation of my father and mother and their sisters and brothers is now in the December of their years. On Jan. 1, a farmer friend of 90 years passed. Before Christmas, another friend in his 90s passed. I could go on and on listing members of this older and passing generation.

It is a generation that was responsible in the raising of their families. For the most part, their marriages endured and we need not think that they had no problems. They had plenty of those. The Bible doesn’t say that “in this world you will have trouble” for nothing.

The generation of my aunt was responsible in economics. They wanted lots of things like good houses and cars and refrigerators and televisions, but they didn’t feel that they were entitled to them. They might have lived in a time when jobs were plentiful, but they took those jobs, any jobs they could find, and worked at them. They didn’t expect someone else to pay for their gain.

They were the members and presidents of our civic organizations. They were Lions and Jaycees and Kiwanis and Rotary Club members. They didn’t sit on the sidelines and watch other people do it. They joined in to make better communities.

They went to church and Sunday schools. They formed the circles and the men’s clubs. They baked the cakes and dishes for grieving families. I’m not saying they were goody-two shoes people. They made their mistakes just like everyone else. On Sundays and Wednesdays, however, they made their way to their houses of faith. They’re still going as they are able.

During their heyday, church membership in the United States of America was at its highest. Is there any correlation between this attendance to faith and the strength of our country during those years? Absolutely.

Now, who’s gonna fill their shoes? Naturally, that place should belong to their sons and daughters. That’s me and my generation. That place of responsibility is ours and it cannot be dismissed. Oh it can be ignored and it has been, but look where that failure has brought us.

It has brought us to the brink of moral and economic bankruptcy. We no longer are the country that we inherited. We would love to point fingers and find someone to blame. That’s our favorite M.O. (Method of thinking). It enables us to escape our responsibility.

A better way of responding, though, would be to start filling the shoes of those wonderfully responsible and faithful fathers and mothers who came before us. (This is a good place for an “Amen!”)