In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris describes Roosevelt’s 1898 campaign for Governor of New York. Earlier that year, he had left his job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to organize a volunteer regiment for the Army—what became known as the Rough Riders—in view of coming hostilities with Spain over the island of Cuba. Roosevelt was 39 years old and longed to experience battle. He got his wish and led the Rough Riders in taking Kettle Hill, followed by San Juan Hill, overlooking the city of Santiago. All told, the Rough Riders were organized, trained, sent off to war, won, came home, and were disbanded in less than five months’ time. Colonel Roosevelt was now a national hero, and next sought the governorship of his home state.
Barnstorming the Empire State by train, he gave speeches at dozens of whistle stops. For added effect, he took along a small cadre of former Rough Riders who would talk about the Colonel, providing more color for his campaign. At one depot, a Rough Rider named Buck Taylor attempted a speech about his fearless leader’s courage in Cuba, praising him in these words:
“I want to talk to you about mah Colonel. He kept ev’y promise he made to us and he will to you….He told us we might meet wounds and death and we done it, but he was thar in the midst of us, and when it came to the great day he led us up San Juan Hill like sheep to the slaughter and so will he lead you” (Morris, p. 720).
Roosevelt was not much bothered by the misguided comparison. Afterward, he remarked on Taylor’s well-intentioned effort, “This hardly seemed a tribute to my military skill, but it delighted the crowd, and as far as I could tell did me nothing but good” (ibid.).
We try, as Christians, to do good for the Lord. Unlike Jesus, we don’t always have the perfect word at precisely the right moment. We don’t always know exactly what to do, or the wisest way to go about it. With our own glaring imperfections, we seek to praise the One who is perfection personified. But, that is the way Jesus wants it. He is content to take us along the journey. He doesn’t mind our company. He wants us with him. And, though Jesus could always say it best, he asks us just to do what we can—even if we stumble over our words or mix up a metaphor. He who became for us “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7, ESV), now leads us on to highest reward as we try to spread the news about the victory he won us. Or, as Paul put it, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). May the Lord help us to do him “nothing but good.”