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Easter Musings

April 15, 2014

There’s no such thing as history.  Not true history.

History can’t be true; at best it’s story history.

Washing the dog this weekend, I finished up and put him down on the tile.  His feet were still wet, though, and he slipped, banging his chin.  I felt awful and he was scared of me, shying away as if I’d done it to him.  Fifteen minutes later he was crawling happily into my arms.  His chin has stopped hurting and the memory of what happened faded away.

The animal world is like that.  Fuzzy memories, the present and immediate future the only thing of interest.  People?  Not so much.

But here’s the thing.  Memories do not represent history.  They are vague, worked over, one-sided things.   History books are the exact same thing, perhaps less vague, a good deal more worked over, and despite research, mostly one-sided still.

I’ve watched the Zapruder film of Kennedy’s assassination.  Is film true history?  No.  I’ve been to Dealey Plaza and it wasn’t anything like the film version.  Scale was different, it has a scent and sounds and presence that no film could capture.  It recorded incomplete events from a single viewpoint.

Did events happen in the past?  Of course, but we have no recorder of history that is in any way accurate.   History is not separate from the people who lived it; the entirety of each life is integral to every event.   When John Wilk
es-Booth shot Lincoln, it was more than a series of actions, it was a frisson of motivation and belief.  That historical moment cannot be truly understood or even grasped without knowing JWB completely, or the events and culture of the day, or physical surroundings, or of a million other details.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, we’re told.  But all we’re capable of is grasping a story of history, a fictional account of what may or may not have happened.

Here’s the scary conclusion:  As a person, we are each shaped by our imperfect memories, or deeply flawed understanding of a fictionalized history.  What we build ourselves out of is wrong.  Or perhaps incorrect, is the right word.  Or incomplete.  Would we build a house from incomplete plans?  Mix volatile chemicals from vague recollections?

In so many cases, people are crippled by their past.  Often we hold onto to horrible things, regret our own actions, are driven by demons of the past.  So many times I’ve seen people desperately grip past abuses or trauma, refusing to forgive someone who doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

But what if there was a way?  A way to wipe away the past, as false as it is?  To unchain ourselves from regret or abuse?  To justly move past our one-sided histories?

God says there is.  “I work all things for good.”  He is sovereign.  We don’t really have any concept of our own history, let alone the world’s, but God says all that happened, ALL that happened, was in his control.  Even the bad stuff.  But it was BAD, you say.  “I work all things for good.”  Not this, Lord!  I hurt/was hurt by others!  “I will/have turned it to good.”  I haven’t seen that, Lord!  “Because you are not sovereign, I am.”

Only God truly, accurately perceives history.  Only his sacrifice on the cross frees us.  Some say you have to understand your issues.  I say you never will, even when you think you do.  Knowing won’t set you free.  Trusting will.  Trusting God will.

Trust that God’s understanding is right and that yours is fictionalized. Lean not on your own understanding, scripture tells us.  Whether you were perpetrator or victim, you did not have the power to overcome God’s sovereignty.

Nail your history to the cross and accept God’s love and forgiveness.  It really is that easy.

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