It’s all relative they say. TIME. It goes quickly, and it also goes slowly.
How do we prepare for the future? By honouring our past . . .
A week or so ago my sister and brother along with my mother and I were together, just us four, for the first time since our dad died. Mum wanted us together to go through the house deciding who would take what when she moves out. We spent a few hours together going through each room putting stickers on pictures, furniture and heirlooms.
It was a happy time tinged with a little sadness. With great grace and wisdom mum knows it is time to move out, yet it is the house she and dad built together over 30 years ago. It’s the only house of theirs that the grandchildren have known, and one of the few stable physical points of their lives.
Mum was keen for us each of us to say what we wanted. But none of us wanted to go there first, each happy for the other to express their views first. I didn’t have a strong preference but in the end I finally said I wouldn’t mind some of the old photos of great grandparents and great-great grandparents. That seemed to me a great heritage to have, and now I realise how important their lives were, and that their past is important to me.
Throughout the Old Testament the people of Israel are constantly called by God to remember their history, and particularly God’s action in it. It was a powerful way God called them to confront what lay ahead. From a biblical perspective the past is never irrelevant. It matters. It is a key to understanding how to live and gives vision for the future.
Even in the last letter in the New Testament, Jude writes to encourage us to “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). While each of us has to travel our own journey of faith, it has been handed down to us from those who have gone before.
As I write I’m watching the TV program Who do you think you are? I always find it fascinating how every week the person exploring their past is deeply affected by it and how it helps them understand themselves. Many are hopeful their new-found knowledge will help them be a better person, and many more have grown in appreciation of the life they have.
Every one of us has a history that has had an impact on who we are today. The greatest thing our parents pass on to us are not the heirlooms, money or houses but the heritage that goes back beyond them. God calls us to appreciate that history, to learn from that history and allow it to prepare us for the future.
One day in the not too distant future photos of my forebears will grace the walls of my home. However, it’s not the photos themselves but the relationships and heritage they represent that are important. They will help me remember who I am and the way I should live. They will also be there for my children, and their children and hopefully their children’s children and so on.
I am grateful for a special day spent with my mum, sister and brother. I’m aware for some that similar events have not always been as rewarding. But I wonder if they would be strengthened if we all took heed of God’s call to remember and honour our past. May God enrich us all as we endeavour to do so.
Stephen L Baxter