I felt it was a bit over-dramatic the first few times I heard it. At the beginning of my time in
France, in response to some comment I would make, a French person would reply with
something like, “You don’t understand. We bear the centuries-old weight of our people.” With
time, I’ve come to realize they were right, and I was expressing my naivete, for no one begins
life with no connections to the past. We all have parents and family and ancestors with history
and we are extensions of that cumulative history. We may, as I was, be unaware of the story
we’re born into, but we are surely impacted by that story.
The moment our lives intersect with the life of Jesus, we are, all of a sudden, embraced into a
new story, an ages-old story, a story of love and redemption and adoption and freedom. Many
of us live unaware of the true impact on us, of the life that has been given to us in Jesus. Sure,
we know Bible stories, and hymns and worship songs, attend church and have Christian
fellowship, but are, despite all that, capable of living a stunted freedom with fearful days and
nights and shame-filled thoughts because the weight of our previous ‘life’ continues to
overwhelm us, causing the joys and beauty of life in Jesus to be obscured from view, and
therefore, unlived.
If you’ll indulge me, my thoughts these past several days have been somewhat focused on the
death of my brother. He, too, was born into a family with much secret, unexplored history. He
lived just 75 years, but added much to our family story in those years. We speak often at
funerals as if a life has ended, but I think all that has been invested during a lifetime continues
on through the lives of those impacted by that life. In Allen’s case, he leaves a wife, three
children, ten grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. He looms lovingly large in the life of
each one. He looms large in the lives of friends and co-workers and neighbors. He looms large
in the lives of his church family. He looms large in my life. The latest addition to the clan is just a
few months old and will not get to know ‘Papa’ except through the lives of the rest of the
members of the family. But, most assuredly, she will hear many stories of the gentle giant who
preceded her. I’m wondering what lives I’ve touched and what I’ve added to the story. PD

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