I went to the mall today and there was nobody there. I have sometimes arrived early enough at a department store to see how dead it really is before the Muzak is turned on and gives it the appearance of being alive—like lipstick on a cadaver.
Thirty years ago there was no indication that the big box stores would be ailing. Twenty years before that, there was no indication that the first prototype mall in my hometown would be the handwriting on the wall for the stores on Main Street that we once flocked to.
Who foresaw that ordering videos at home would put Blockbuster out of business and that the ease of ordering books online would turn Barnes & Noble into a glorified café? A few years ago I bought my son a GPS for his car and he didn’t get around to taking it out of the box before it became obsolete.
The obsolescence of some things makes sense. The buggy whip makers were obviously whipped when the first Ford came lumbering down the road. Pagers were smart before cell phones killed them but are now laughable. I have a wall of VHS movies I was saving for posterity. Good luck with that.
But there are some inventions that shouldn’t have become obsolete, in my opinion, and that no genius could have foreseen. Notably: “rubbers.” When I was a kid, everyone wore rubbers on their shoes on a wet day. Nothing better has come along to replace them and yet they became extinct while no one was looking. My theory for such a counterintuitive development is that it became “uncool” to wear them. But that only deepens the mystery. What determines what becomes “uncool” and what doesn’t?
Hats on men immediately were fashion anathema the minute JFK didn’t wear one at his inauguration as president. And why should that be, logically speaking? Don’t we still need protection from the sun’s summer rays? I just saw a photo of my hometown circa the turn of the last century, and on a sunny day most of the women were holding umbrellas for shade. When did we become so “cool” that we preferred to swelter?
The point I am coming to is this: What dawned on me at the mall this morning as I surveyed the death spiral of a phenomenon is that the best and brightest of us cannot anticipate the strange curves that history and culture will take. The greater application for me is that since I am not smart enough to know even what will happen tomorrow, I would be a fool to lean to my own understanding and to not acknowledge God in all my ways or trust Him with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It’s one thing to guess wrong on a gamble about the Edsel and people’s passion for chrome. It’s another thing to put your hope in wealth, which is so uncertain (1 Timothy 6:17). Fortunes rise and fall, and the one who is riding high today will be brought low, while the one who is low will be exalted. This was Mary’s epiphany when she realized that a country girl was chosen as the mother of the Savior (Luke 1:46-55).
“Fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
This is the best and safest and wisest course. Put all your eggs in one basket—the Lord—and watch what happens.