“Maybe it’s true that we are all descended from the restless, the nervous, the criminals, the arguers and brawlers, but also the brave and independent and generous.” – Steinbeck
What gaping wounds have you inherited? What stories have been scabbed over? What secrets do the scars hold?
“You shall be holy.”
What if you are the one withholding food from hungry people?
What if you are the one profiting from deception? What if you are the one not paying the worker a livable wage?
What if your lifestyle is built on cheating others out of theirs?
What if you are the one criticizing, insulting, and condemning the unable for not overcoming? What if you are the one creating hardships in their life?
“You shall fear your God.”
What if you are the one perpetuating an unjust society? What if you are the one talking about ‘those people’? What if you are the one enjoying the luxury of a comfortable life because those who challenge the system are killed?
What legacy of life have you been given, will you leave?
What do you do when you find truths buried in your story that are painful, even shameful? How do you react when you come face to face with the reality that the story of your life creates hardships for other people?
What do you do when you learn your ancestors bear responsibility for the pain in Northern Ireland*? Forevermore, when you hear stories of this country in the news, you will feel bound. Bound by the actions of history’s celebrities, of the infamous Cromwell, the venerated King James.
After a lifetime of thinking your family story was simply ‘farmers’, now look at it. What a story you have.
How does one handle the inheritance of oppression, even as they continue to perpetuate it?
“If anyone destroys God’s temple…”
When you look at your life, do you see all the ways in which you have benefited from violence and injustice? The displacement of Catholics and Native Americans, the Crusades and the Revolution? 400 years of pacifist ancestry and still violence and oppression manage to invade.
“I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it.”
Do you feel the tension of the competing stories, the conflicting histories? The stubborn Puritans and the sometimes strange Quakers? Can you feel the blood pulsing inside of you, born of oppression and oppressed?
Do you know how so many people all over the world have good reason to resent you?
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
How do you live into truth when you are caught up in systems so much bigger than you? You have inherited so much more than a list of names and locations.
Your story is irreversibly linked with local, national and global issues that aren’t issues at all, but people. People bound in space and time to one another, the fears and thoughts handed down through the ages, affecting the other.
You are tied together, friend and foe, strings so tight that the individual stories cry out with the tension.
“But I tell you love your enemy…”
What do you do when you are the enemy?
What a burden history is. How heavy the yokes we wear, the millstones we tie. How pervasive the persecution and the violence, how easily self-preservation leads to denying the humanity of others.
“I thought I had inherited both the scars of the fire and the impurities which made the fire necessary….Maybe you’ll come to know that every man in every generation is refired….All impurities burned out and ready for a glorious flux, and for that – more fire. And then either the slag heap or, perhaps what no one in the world ever quite gives up on, perfection.” – Steinbeck
Vineyards and employers and temples and walking miles and Gentiles and Irish Catholics and Puritan dissidents and Quaker disowners and love and violence, hate and history, and we’re all mixed up together, all 6 billion of us, inter-connected, blood ties mingling and we pass the peace, but what is peace with blood-stained hands?
“Be perfect, therefore…”
*An excellent movie on this, and on how difficult forgiveness and reconciliation is, is Five Minutes of Heaven