Finding Old Glory

February 12th, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 12: 7 (NLT)

 7 The wicked die and disappear,
      but the family of the godly stands firm.

 

Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

The year was 1817.  The ruddy young deckhand was nervous, but the salty spray that misted his face with the cresting of each wave was an intoxicating aroma.  Leaning across the ship railing, he watched the sun set on the western horizon in front of him as the home behind him was quickly fading from view. 

Salem now looked miniscule in the distance, but his future was immeasurable.  The knot in his stomach grew almost unmanageable, yet he had never felt so very much alive.  Reaching up, he pulled his hat down as far as he could in an attempt to look older. 

Suddenly something zipped past his foot with great fury!  Instinctively he reached down and took hold of the wheezing rope that had come untied from the sail.  The excruciating black tattoo of rope burn found him clutching his hand in agony and fighting back tears.  It was the first lesson he learned from the sea—it wouldn’t be his last.  A gruff roar of laughter arose from the motley sailors who stood nearby.  William ignored them.  The sea was finally his. 

William’s hand wasn’t the only thing burning.  His father’s words still blazed in his ears.  “Navy?  Boy, you just turned fourteen!  You’re not going anywhere but back to the shop!  There’s no shame in being a blacksmith.” 

But the sea lured William.  In fact, it taunted him to the boiling point so that all fourteen years of bottled-up zeal finally erupted within him.  He had no choice . . . the boy picked up the gauntlet that the ocean had thrown at his feet.  The runaway adventurer found his way to the docks and secured a slot as a deckhand aboard a small naval vessel.

The captain was hesitant to hire a boy obviously so young, no matter how old he said he was.  But something in William’s eyes allured him.  Maybe it was some kindred blinding passion for the sea that the old captain himself had felt some infinite year ago.  Whatever the reason, young William was hired and his amazing story began.

You’ve probably never heard his story, but I certainly have.  Why?  Because his full name was Captain William Driver . . . that’s right . . . Driver, just like me.  Some years later upon his maiden voyage as one of the youngest naval captains in American history, his mother and other young women from Salem presented him with an American flag which he would fly over the mast of his vessel for the decades of his decorated military career.  This career included many adventures at sea, some with great peril.  He rescued the descendants of the famed mutineers of the Bounty from an island and transported them back home.  

He was so fond of the momento given to him on that first voyage that he affectionately named it “Old Glory.”  The name stuck . . . not just for his flag, but for all American flags.

Some years later, Captain Driver retired to Nashville, Tennessee.  He lived on Fifth Avenue near downtown and on special patriotic occasions, parades would march in front of his house where he unfurled his beloved flag.  Old Glory became a local and national relic of historical significance.  

During the Civil War when the Confederates occupied Nashville, Captain Driver sewed Old Glory into the lining of a quilt to hide it from those who demanded it from the stubborn old man.  The very thing they were searching to destroy, William slept under each night.  Threatened by Confederate sympathizers, William staunchly held his ground and dared them to try to take Old Glory from him.  They never did.

Upon the Union’s recapturing of Nashville, in high pomp and circumstance, the old sea captain slowly walked down Fifth Avenue and made his way to the State Capitol building. Climbing the steps to the top, he again flew his favorite flag over Nashville.  It was a moment that symbolized to him a Union that could never be broken.

Those are just snippets of his amazing story.  The reason I know it so well is that as a young boy, I was told that Captain William Driver was my ancestor.  As a historian of sorts, I’ve done extensive research to make the direct tie between his descendants and my ancestors . . . so far, I haven’t connected every dot.  Nevertheless, the legacy of the Drivers is one that I’m honored to carry on.

This passage speaks of legacy and family: “The wicked die and disappear, but the family of the godly stands firm.”  Whether or not Captain William was a godly man will be a question that only eternity can answer, but our family story is a great example of how our history shapes our present and influences our future.  There are those whose deaths mark the end of their influence on this world . . . and then there are those whose legacies continue because the things they lived for transcended their personal lifetimes.

That’s who we must strive to be: people of legacy.  Joining the right family and pursuing godliness connects us with what is lasting and meaningful.  It’s not about great old stories; it’s about living out the name that we bear on our souls.  That name trumps any setbacks we may face from our earthly heritage.  Our real family legacy is eternal and is available to all who desire adoption.

For me, Captain William Driver’s story is still unfolding and I become more intrigued with it each day.  Much greater is my interest in the eternal legacy offered to me by my eternal family connections.

Now that’s what I call some “Old Glory.”

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~ by johndriver on February 12, 2009.

4 Responses to “Finding Old Glory”

  1. thats really interesting!

  2. …. I dont get it…..
    haha jk. this is interesting

  3. John,
    This is a terrific story!

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