Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Trouble With History: Rules? Heroes? Balance? What?

My mom and I tend to be phone tag kind of people. Not just the couple passes and misses kind either, I'm talking the kind that can go on for weeks. This is extremely problematic to a Gammy who just wants to hear from (and about) her grandbabies. Our remedy? A scheduled phone date every Monday. It could just be the season of our relationship, but I really wish we had thought of it sooner because somewhere in our swapping of monologues (we're bad like that, right mom?), the respect I ought to have given her a long time ago has grown and budded in it's proper place. This past month in particular, as I move forward in a journey that she's steps away from finishing (hers being over twenty years long!), we've had some really rich conversations. This week, she offered me a particularly hefty signpost that led to a nugget I'd been anxious to find.

I mentioned before that we wrapped up our Columbus studies, and somehow Mom and I got caught up in chatting about his character, repercussions of bad decisions, legends I didn't know about, and the trouble in teaching history.

"Trouble?" She asks.
"Yeah, as in balance," I say.
"Balance?" She prods.
"In taking all sides and weighing them to give the most whole picture of what was happening," I respond, "It's so hard to offer that though, you have to sift through so much to get to that point. I'm tired of seeing history presented as a set of opinions rather than as a narrative."
"Ah. Well you can't tell a story without having a opinionated perspective, not to mention believe it yourself."

The conversation drew out much longer than this, as those who know us well may have guessed, but I've been pondering the gist of our conversation. Tackling history in a politically charged time that finds something in everything to frown on is more chore than delight. There's so much talk about balance out there, but in offering "balance" (which I suppose means "two sides to every story" in this context), I see the same effect as we had with those phonics flashcards we had to ditch last week - confusion rather than interest or delight. So how do I approach history well? What narratives can we trust ourselves to?

In the midst of these somersaulting thoughts, we started our Jesus Storybook Bible over again. It's a gem, let me tell you. Besides stoking the fires of curiosity and passion in the girls, it reminds me of how every little thing reflects and points to the gospel in some way or another, and really is woven into a grand tapestry of His faithfulness. The introductory chapter? That one gets me every single time.
"Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn't do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it . . . . But [it] isn't mainly about you and what you should be doing. It's about God and what He has done. 
Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes. . . . The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you'll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren't heroes at all. They make big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times, they are downright mean.
No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. . . . There are a lot of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them." 
"Why does this strike me as the answer to something?" My slow witted self wondered this time around. I didn't make the connection until the next morning.

Some people see history as a playback of general morality followed well or not so much, still others as a collection of heroes to look up to or villains to look down on. Sure, history holds a little of both these things, but essentially, it's neither. History is all the little stories telling one big story of God's faithfulness over and over and over again. And that right there is the narrative perspective we can trust ourselves to without batting an eye.

If ever there was a face-in-palm moment, that was one of my biggest.

I'm right back at the starting point of it all, and where I should have backtracked to in the first place - learning through all these things to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. Needless to say, we're moving into this next piece of history much more at ease, eyes open to God's pen strokes rather than whatever the heck I was trying to see before.