America is such a baby.
As a junior at Penn State, I realized this first hand when I moved to Cologne Germany to study International Marketing. The facts may have been spelled out in my history books. But something clicked when I visited the place. If walls could talk?
Cologne, Köln, was largely destroyed in the bombing of in WW II but by 1959 it returned to it’s pre-war population making it a bustling metropolis and the 4th largest city in Germany. When I visited in 1981, from my perspective, things were just old. Houses were old, the cobbled streets were old, the university was old, the shops were old. The spectacular cathedral, Der Kölner Dom, was constructed in the late 1200s. Old.
An Arrogant Mindset
Back home, we were enjoying all things new, like cable TV, and variegated shag carpeting inspired by the the age’s modern family, The Brady Bunch. While I loved my time studying abroad, I didn’t always find the old charming. Mostly, I found old inconvenient or behind the times. I’m embarrassed now as I notice my somewhat arrogant mindset. America is such a baby.
In the late 1990s this truth was reinforced when, I moved again to Europe — this time Edinburgh, Scotland where Doug and I were married and Ian was born. Doug was a youth minister at Colinton Parish Church. This beautiful old parish was the home church of Robert Louis Stevenson and the place that inspired much of his writing. The swing hung in the courtyard that held his very tush.
As a new mom in this “old-version” of living, it felt as if I was playing house. I hung my clothes on the line to dry. I walked my newborn in a pram while shopping for grocery items in the village. And even abandoned my sleeping child on our front stoop to not risk the pram to crib transfer. The talk of the town was the big Safeway that moved in, threatening the local fruit-monger, the baker and the butcher. And… the promise of cable TV had everyone buzzing.
A New Respect
I’ve noticed from our most recent trip, I find that I appreciate history more. Perhaps in my seasoned years, I respect “old” more. Old is indeed charming. Well, except when the internet is misbehaving. I am fascinated to learn about the lives of real people that came before. What clues did they leave?
The Value of History
I like to think of history as the story we tell the future about the past. In my view, history becomes most useful when it helps to inform the future. If only history’s account was always objectively and accurately reported. If only walls could talk.
While visiting the Alhambra, 1000 year old Moorish royal palace in Granada Spain, the history I found most fascinating were the juicy facts. The facts that don’t make the colorful brochure — for example, the harem quarters with windows that see out, but not in, to house the many concubines. If only walls could talk?
While in Southern Spain, for a break from the typical tourist site-seeing, we planned for a day to hike the Sierra Nevadas. Without Ian and unencumbered, we set out to find the hanging bridges of Los Cahorros. Unbeatable views, waterfalls, caves that you crawl through, and narrow paths that run adjacent to the rock face. A real Indiana Jones experience, the website promised which would be the perfect accompaniment to our airbnb cave dwelling.
The Value of those who have gone before.
The exhilarating hike didn’t disappoint. While taking us through some spectacular Andalucian countryside, I couldn’t help but be grateful to those who had gone before — the well-placed iron hand holds, the suspension bridges that crossed a vast gorge below. The hike meandered alongside an acequias (an ancient irrigation system) that dates back to Moorish times. Even our hike was a history lesson.
Logging 22k steps on the fitbit and traveling most of the way single file, there was lots of time with my own thoughts. As I walked along and the hike got more intense, I decided I preferred being second. I wasn’t the guinea pig. I had the advantage of observing the one before me. When faced with a potential hazard, Doug would take his best guess. Following him, I could repeat his method, if it worked well. Or if it didn’t, choose better.
Our Reluctance to Tell
As you all have come to expect from me, I am transparent when it comes to my story and the work of the Lord in my life. I tell it like it is. The good. The bad. The ugly. On occasion well meaning people have chided me, cautioned me, and expressed their genuine concern. Some have recommended that I take care in my sharing. Wait for resolution. Use some forethought so as not to put God on the judgement seat. As if I should somehow clean up the truth so God is the indisputable victor.
I know of strong committed Christians whose priority is to keep up appearances so that their life matches their portrayal on social media. They keep life’s challenges private, all prayer concerns inside, all messy circumstances quiet until they can be packaged properly. All skeletons are best left in the closet.
What a waste. And what a shame.
What is your story?
Just as history, including it’s skeletons, is the story we tell the future about the past, the way I see it, your story is your personal responsibility, your personal contribution. I contend that honest vulnerability is a treasure and a person’s greatest asset. In a sense it’s our opportunity to install the iron hand holds for those who come after us. Our story becomes our greatest legacy.
Walls can’t talk. But you can.
Throughout scripture God tells His story. It begins in eternity past and stretches into eternity future. The story climaxed two thousand years ago when God entered His creation in human form. God tells of His love for His creation and His greatest desire– that His creation enjoy Him forever. With His amazing grace, God invites each of us to be a supporting character in His story.
What you were created for
Whether you embrace it or not, you were created for His purposes. You have the opportunity to join the greats… Abraham, Mary, Moses, David. Your life task is to step up to the role He has for you in the greatest story ever told. In a sense, that’s what you were created for, that’s what I’ve been created for.
The book of Joshua ends with this verse.
Joshua 4:24 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
What a great example of the value and purpose of a story.
The power of Your Story
It’s the story that piques interest in the truth. It’s the story that gives strength to a faith. And it’s the story that makes trust possible. It’s true we can read about people of the bible and learn from their examples. But, consider this… Moses is walking through that desert ahead of you. He left the well-placed iron hand-holds and wants you to accept the baton to be an influence to your generation. You are needed to demonstrate the way.
Mark 5:19 “Go home . . . and tell them how much the Lord has done for you”
Never underestimate the personal impact of your story. Your story, in its raw form, transformed by the Holy Spirit, has power and purpose. Tell it. Then stand back and marvel at what God will do.
Don’t waste your chance. Tell your story. Get over yourself. Leave your legacy.
For His Glory, Debbie Hucke