In my morning devotionals, I've been sitting in those really heavy Old Testament books for a while now. The ones in between Ruth and Ezra. Those heavy ones full of despicable acts of betrayal, war crimes, genocide and a lot of stories I have a hard time reconciling with the God of grace I know from the New Testament.
Samuel and I generally do okay because there's Hannah--Hannah my hero, Hannah whose heart I know so well. And then, Samuel's not such a bad guy either.
David's a bit "eh" for me, but he has his moments--like the story of Abigail and the story of him dancing before the Lord and the story of his humanity displayed in his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah.
So with Hannah and Samuel and David, I usually make my way through the Samuels without too many hangups or pitfalls
But the Kings and the Chronicles...those I can generally do without.
When I do choose to brave the depravity, I find myself clinging to stories of Elijah and the widow or Elisha and the Shumanite woman, trying to find the smallest glimpse of the God of the New Testament and trying to not get hung up on the stories of genocide. Or the stories of war. Or the stories of rebellion and betrayal.
My mom and I were chatting last evening about how everything just seems to be so messed up. From politics to financial markets to global epidemics to the crazy stories we can both share from working with low income families locally--it seems everything is just too messed up for us to possibly find our way out. It seems so similar to the ever downward spiral I've been reading about in the Kings and the Chronicles.
But I suppose what I'm liking about the Kings and the Chronicles is how they simply tell it how it is. There's no sugar-coating. There's no romanticizing. There's no glamorizing. The stories are the stories--they're ugly and raw and real.
I've heard a lot of talk since I've been back in the US about getting back to the way things used to be--to the "good ol' days" if you will. But I think in our disgust for the present, we've romanticized and built up the past in to something it really wasn't. We look back with romantic eyes at simpler times, and gloss over citizens being denied basic civil rights. We forget about recessions and depressions gone by. We forget about war. We forget about the things of those eras that aren't so romantic, that weren't so good or so simple. And I'm convinced we need to look more objectively and see with objective eyes the ugly and raw and real.
One of the greatest lessons I took away from living inside another culture is that culture is a living, breathing, evolving thing. If culture stagnates and does not evolve as its environment presses in on, it does not survive.
There are always traditions and mores that should be preserved, but culture itself has to move forward. It cannot move backward. I think we call that kind of folding back on one's self implosion.
When I look back on my own stories, I try to balance the romantic wonderment with the ugly and raw and real. Otherwise I'm always moving back to Portland where it was gorgeous and the people were so earthy and gritty and granola. Or to Colorado Springs where mountains were my playground and I lived in such perfect harmony and balance with my relationships. Or to South Africa where everything was exotic and diverse and perfect every day.
If you knew me in any of those places, you probably just laughed out loud because you know the ugly and the raw and the real part of life for me in those places as well. And I know that while all those places were those things, there was a lot of ugly and raw and real too.
We have to be careful of living too much in the past and not enough in the present. It's in living too much in the past that we can lose our hope for the future and our sight for the right now.
It's a dangerous thing when we as individuals or we as a culture spend too much time looking backwards and not enough time looking around us and ahead of us.
For certain, there are lessons to be gained from the past and much history can teach us, but it does us no good if we're constantly fighting to get back to that reality or not spending enough time looking forward and applying the lessons we learned when we looked backwards.
The Kings and the Chronicles? I think they get that. This is what happened so take the lesson and apply it. It ain't pretty. It ain't sugarcoated. It is what it was. Now what will you do with it?