When we think about the American Revolution in the late 18th century, we reflect on the exploits of George Washington, the wisdom and genius of Thomas Jefferson, the fiery speeches of Patrick Henry, and the countless numbers of men and women who sacrificed their lives and fortunes so that our country might be free. We remember Molly Pitcher and Betsy Ross. We view John Hancock’s big and bold signature on the Declaration of Independence. We celebrate these heroes because without their sacrifices, we would not be a free people today.
But very rarely do we recognize the bravery of George Rogers Clark.
At age 26, George Rogers Clark was a confident frontiersman with a HUGE vision. He had been out to the wilderness of Kentucky which, at the time of the American Revolution, was a rich wilderness filled with abundant game and lush, untouched forests. To those with a spirit of adventure, the frontier was the ideal place to carve out a life on the American continent. The frontiersmen embodied the wild and untamed spirit of the New World, and gradually settlements began to pop up in the wilderness as they defied England’s proclamation of 1763 that banned such westward expansion. When the Revolutionary War broke out, these settlements found themselves without protection from the raiding Native Americans who were backed by the British. Clark was so concerned about the west that he loved that he persuaded Virginia’s governor Patrick Henry to declare Kentucky as a county of Virginia and allow him to lead a small army to defend the territory.
With his band of ragtag uncivilized soldiers, George Rogers Clark swept into the frontier and took the British-held settlements of Kaskaskia, Cohokia, and Vincennes…all without firing a shot.
Amazing, right? Would that all surrender be that simple!
But the truth is that it typically is not. To surrender implies a weakness in our world, does it not? To surrender means “to give oneself up to the power of another,” after all, and no one wants to do that. And yet, God calls us to surrender fully to Him.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” -James 4:10 (HCSB)
God doesn’t just want a piece of our lives. He wants everything. And, in order to give God everything, we need to surrender to Him in every area from small to great. Our hearts need to be moved in a deeply personal way by Christ’s character. And when that happens–when we allow Him to lead us through the hidden doorways of the seemingly static moments of time–we have the privilege of knowing Him even deeper. We can be wholehearted right now because the Holy Spirit makes those common moments sacred. If we do not seek Him there–in the ordinary–we will not somehow suddenly find Him in the times defined as extraordinary and sacred.
God rewards faithfulness in the mundane, even when the assignments He gives us seem so small that we might even despise them. We need to follow Christ’s example to love God extravagantly in the midst of our present obscurity. When we are faithful to offer the gift of our smallness, our surrender, doing something as unto the Lord will have great eternal significance.
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; than your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard….” -Isaiah 58:8
George Rogers Clark knew something about obscurity, and I think that’s why he strikes me as a fascinating man (also he was a redhead and I am unashamedly unbiased). When the British army under General Henry Hamilton recaptured Vincennes and were stuck there due to the harsh winter and Ohio flooding, Clark’s company of men defied the cold and cruel conditions and bottom land flooding to complete a surprise attack on Vincennes. It was his greatest exploit yet. He was hailed as the Conqueror of the Northwest Territory, and it was said that his exploits doubled the size of the American colonies…all before the age of 30. He was a legendary commander, strong Christian, and he won the hard-earned loyalty and love of his men–even the most notable explorer Daniel Boone looked to him as a leader.
After the Revolutionary War, Clark was accused of being drunk on duty. Clark appealed the accusation, but it was denied. He never again led his men into battle and he left the Kentucky territory. His reputation was forever tarnished. He had been given a huge tract of land from Virginia for all of his exploits, but he was land poor–owning much land, but lacking the funds to gain an income from it. The United States Congress never compensated him for all of the funds that he spent in fighting for the West and he ended up living out the rest of his days at the mercy of his relatives–a poor way for such a hero of our country to finish.
But, surrender does leave a legacy.
It was rumored that a well-worn path went to Clark’s door as he lived out the rest of his days. He would constantly receive visits from Indian friends, wartime buddies, and other frontiersmen who were honored to meet such a hero. And, George Rogers Clark wasn’t the only explorer of his family. His younger brother William Clark, whom George tutored in the ways of the wilderness, was recruited by one Meriwether Lewis to co-command an expedition into the Louisiana Territory, thus paving the way for the Louisiana Purchase.
God’s call for us to surrender to Him is something we will have to do daily–even though it may leave us in relative obscurity as far as the world is concerned. However, when we DO surrender it is a beautiful thing in the heavenlies and in our own hearts. And that is something God has been teaching me over and over again this summer….