Vol. 12 No. 1 January 2010
The State of Ohio recognizes centennial barns throughout its counties; perhaps some other states do something similar. A barn must be in good repair and be at least 100-years-old; some barns are 200-years-old. Selected barns, meeting this criteria, are painted white and wear their state citation from ground to roof on the side most visible to traffic. These barns are considered part of the American heritage and are an ever present, nostalgic reminder of our nation’s cherished yesteryear. Each of those barns and many others reside in a picturesque rural community, surrounded by other farm buildings, like silos, corncribs and tractor sheds; many are accented with country homes, and often fields encircle all the buildings.
However, many barns throughout Ohio and other states are in some state of disrepair. It borders on sadness to observe a once grand structure such as an antique barn with roof gone and its skeleton of beams exposed to the harsh elements, or worse to see that the whole, collapsed, massive edifice has finally fallen victim to gravity and collided with the earth. Why did no one paint the weatherworn planks on their walls? Why were gnarled boards and sagging timbers not replaced? Just why are some barns preserved and heralded while others are surrendered to neglect and rot? Maybe the answer lies, in part, with whether the farms on which the barns sit are still working farms. In any case, broken-down barns are cheerless silhouettes on yesterday’s horizon.
Dilapidated barns make me think of dilapidated family units, which make up dilapidated national mores. I suppose this is so because once our nation depended more heavily on family farms where these barns were vital parts of the family farm business, where like the Walton Family popular on television decades ago, three or four generations of family members lived and worked together. These strong family units made our nation strong, not the least of which, strong morally.
Today, our families are falling apart from every perspective, and consequently our nation is falling apart from several different perspectives as well. There was a time when the Bible was a principle resource for rearing families, which in turn reared a nation that favored itself with reverence for God. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). “Chasten your son while there is hope…” (Proverbs 19:18). “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). “Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14). “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “…from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11).
Every time I see a barn in disrepair, I think of families in disrepair, and I think of my nation in disrepair. Though some barns are beyond repair, many could be repaired and preserved; and likewise, though some families may appear to be beyond repair—ruined—many families could be repaired and preserved, not with planks and paint, but by the application of God’s Word. Wisdom from above is worth more than all earthly wisdom combined, and it can repair and preserve families and nations. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). For me, there is an obvious correlation between dilapidated barns and dilapidated families, families that make a nation what it is, for better or for worse.