Most of us live our lives as if it’s a winding road meandering through all that life offers, always looking ahead, always trudging along at the quickest gait we can manage. I am realizing , though, that it is not the road that enhances our life; it is not the road that builds our character; and it is not the road that grows our faith. It is, rather, the intersections of time and space and the experiences of others that cross that road that seasons our life. Because it is those intersections that juxtapose us with others and their lives, placing us side by side, and creating an intricate and often complicated web that calls us to further explore our own understandings of who we are, who others are, and who God is.
Over the last few weeks, I have been sort of “playing around” on the Ancestry.com website. It gives you the tools to track your family geneology and, to the extent it’s available, marks of your heritage. At first it was almost a pain, simply inputting those things that I knew about my rather large family using data that others have gathered. And then the journey began…At the risk of sounding like the Ancestry.com TV commercial, it really is a meaningful experience. Using historical records available, I’m in the process of journeying back into my own history and meeting characters in it that I did not know before. And, with that, these people of so many years ago whose DNA has been coursing through my own body since the day I was conceived have been placed directly at my side. I am having the gift of experiencing them, if only in a small way, not as history but as part of me and as something of which I’m a part. The excitement has built as the picture that I found of my great-great-great uncle in his uniform of the 19th century Imperial German Army brought tears to my eyes or the fact that I found out that a great-great aunt had lived into her late 80’s and then passed away in the same retirement home where I often preach. It proves that our lives are not merely roads, but webs that connect us all.
Yesterday I had lunch with a friend of mine who is a Jewish rabbi. Over the last year and a half, we’ve been leading an Interfaith Scripture Study together. I told him that I had been doing this geneology search and he was very interested. We talked about his family’s past that he knew and the conversation went to Poland and then Warsaw and then Krakow, where we had both visited. The conversation then turned to Auschwitz, where we had also both visited. I told him what a powerful experiences that was for me and we talked about it. Our pasts are very different and, yet, along the way our separate lives and experiences have been juxtaposed, placed side by side, and, with it, our shared lives have intertwined, and I am richer for it.
I’m pretty convinced this is what God intended–not that we just walk our journey looking forward, wearing blinders to the rest of the world, but that we live our lives and journey our journey aware of the intersections that God imposes and open and aware to the way that others lives are placed side by side with our own.
So go forth and look for those whose lives run alongside your own journey!
Grace and Peace,