Opposites attract, they say! Personal experience suggests that ‘they’, whoever ‘they’ are, have it right. For all intent and purpose, both casual and informed observers could have been forgiven for doubting the longevity potential of the blossoming romance between a young Scouser and an ever so slightly-younger Prescotian. The former, a sports-mad historian with an irrational obsession with ‘smelly old’ second-hand books. The latter, a level-headed mathematician with a natural flair for home making. However, by the grace of God, the very same have just entered their 30th year of married life together.
Whilst enjoying a holiday together, my natural bias towards all things historical was the catalyst for Debs and I to walk a separate path during a recent visit to Kendal. I was keen to explore the uniquely enclosed remembrance gardens in the grounds of the 18th century Presbyterian church. Debs, more interested in the living than the dead, was not so keen! A peacefully fascinating hour passed quickly by. Keen not to miss my rendevouz with Debs I sought to exit the gardens only to find that I had been locked-in! The contact telephone numbers on the church notice-board brought no reward. I started to panic. When would the gardens be reopened? For how long would I be incarcerated? Did Debs have her mobile phone on her and, if so, would it be switched on? Questions invaded my racing mind. A survey of the perimeter of the gardens confirmed that, for the most part, my situation was bleak. My only hope of escape was to scale a six feet wall - arguably, well-within my capability; except that, the reverse side of the wall dropped about fifteen feet before terra-forma, a much less certain prospect! My salvation came by way of a supermarket packing trolley leaning against the foot of the wall. I awkwardly clamoured over the wall and managed to use the trolley to break my fall; securing my escape with just a few minor cuts and bruises, and a slightly dented pride!
Later that same week, during a second visit to the historical South-Lakeland town, I passed the open gates of the said historical remembrance gardens. A naturally impetuous intrigue sought to draw me in; but a foreboding apprehension that history just might repeat itself saw me safely pass-by. Musing over a skinny hazelnut latte a little later, the irony did not escape me. Within a matter of a few days, my infatuation with the past had become both my adversary and my advocate.
I was recently drawn to an article that outlined something of the life of renowned author, the late Dr. Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou had a diverse career, spanning from civil rights activist to poet. Many were introduced to Dr. Angelou in 1993, when she read her poem On the Pulse of Morning at President Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration. She was the second poet to present at a presidential inauguration, and her recording of the poem later won a Grammy in the "Best Spoken Word" category. A poignant extract from the poem reads:
“History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.”
A boring, entirely irrelevant discipline for some may, if embraced, becomes an advocate, a guide, leading one safely in the way of prudent discretion.
If, as Ecclesiastes suggests: “… there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9) then you would think it comparatively easy to avoid the errors of the past. However, human nature being what it is, this is not necessarily the case. Historically, God’s people Israel found it difficult to learn the lessons of the past and, time and again, fell foul of the same mistakes.
The writer to the Hebrews went to great lengths to remind his readers of the exploits of the heroes of the faith (chapter 11). The examples of their past should inspire our present and, thus, secure our future.