Thoughts Along the Way…
I came across a meme today on Facebook that really made me stop and think. The heading was Ancestral Mathematics. Here’s what it said:
“In order to be born, you needed:
16 second great grandparents
32 third great-grandparents
64 fourth great-grandparents
128 fifth great-grandparents
256 sixth great-grandparents
512 seventh great-grandparents
1,024 eighth great-grandparents
2,048 ninth great-grandparents
For you to be born today from 12 previous generations, you needed a total of 4,094 ancestors over the last 400 years. Think for a moment—How many struggles? How many battles? How many difficulties? How much sadness? How much happiness? How many love stories? How many expressions of hope for the future?—did your ancestors have to undergo for you to exist in this present moment…”
Some of my cousins connected me to a website called Family Search. I’m not nearly as involved in exploring our family tree as some of them, but I do find it interesting to trace things back a few generations. I’ve become curious about the lives of these people to whom I am directly related. I’ve heard bits and snatches of some of their stories, but I know nothing at all about most of them. I’ve been surprised by all the surnames that I didn’t know even though their DNA is part of me and their story is part of my story. Beckham, I know, of course. But there is also Curtis, Casey, Owen, Whitely, Moody, Maynard, Wayne, Stapleton, Lawrence, Malmgren, Davidson, Larm, Carlson, Andersdotter, Flykt… The names take me on a journey not only back in time but to other parts of the continent and other parts of the world. I have inherited something, however small, from each of them.
As I thought about all of this, I realized two things. First, the universe, and Christ who is in, with, and under everything the universe does, has worked long and hard to bring us here. All the generations before us with all their struggles and all their joys have brought us, you and me, to this place and this time. That’s got to mean something. And if it doesn’t mean anything existentially in and of itself, then we can bring meaning to it. We can bring love to it. We can see the moment and we can love the moment. And we can love each other in the moment. We can love God in the moment. That’s part of what being the Beloved Community is all about: honoring the moment and honoring everything it took to bring us here.
And that brings me to the second thing I realized. We have inherited our faith, too. Whether you grew up in a home where faith in Christ was part of the atmosphere or whether you came to faith in Christ in some other circumstances in some other context, by some unexpected path, faith was handed down to you by others. It was a gift of grace. It has been passed down to us in a steady succession of believers all the way back to the apostles. “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received,” wrote St. Paul to the saints in Corinth (1 Cor 15:3), and they in turn handed it on to their children and their friends. And so on through the ages.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) But first, let’s take a moment to appreciate all those who have given us this moment.