I love the TV program ‘Who do you think you are?’ Sometimes I find the unravelling stories from the past of ordinary men and women who have struggled against incredible hardship and deprivation extremely moving and inspirational.
One of the things that I always find interesting is the way that the stories of individuals passed from generation to generation change or get embellished sometimes beyond recognition.
We often hear stories of a person who is referred to as a captain of a ship or the owner of an estate or a shady person who committed some terrible deed only to find they were simply an able seaman, a gardener, or someone who fell out with someone else and wasn’t able to defend themselves through the ages, their crime getting darker with age. I think it is sad that honest hardworking people are not recognised for being honest and hardworking! To be consigned to obscurity or to be considered somehow less than another seems harsh and for what? So that others can bask in their reflected glory seems unworthy somehow but perhaps very in keeping with the world we have inherited with its cults of celebrity and where apparently to be worth anything you must be famous and glamorous.
In my own family I have been brought up with stories of worthy individuals who have been held up to me as shining examples to which to aspire; great seafarers, Masters of Sail. Masters of Steam, great academics, church and businessmen. Some of their stories stand up to scrutiny but sadly others do not and instead of looking at their individual lives and marvelling at their triumphs over adversity I find myself being disappointed in them but without any right to be so. It appears also to be the case that these stories with their gradual but expanding embellishments have never really been questioned. Is this because we want to buy into this celebrity existence and lift ourselves out of the ordinary?
With the advent of the internet and websites like ‘Find my past’ it is now possible to research family history like never before. My wife and I took out a free 1 month trial last year. Some of my family were quite opposed to any research into the past suggesting that it was irrelevant and unimportant and that I should leave well alone. Some were even quite obstructive but this just made me look harder. It didn’t take long to realise that my family was no different to anyone else’s with the achievements of one or two being exaggerated a bit!
Perhaps the dissenting voices were right after all because as each story was shrunk to its actual size and the extras stripped back I began feel like I was losing a bit of my identity and I began to wonder just who on earth I actually was!
This question is vitally important to me as an individual but also as a Christian, who am I in Christ? If I can’t answer this then how can I ever hope to fulfil that which God has put me here to do? Thankfully and unlike genealogy there is no ambiguity in the scripture and no need for embellishment because the truth is incredible enough. Scripture states clearly:
I am a new creation, because I am in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
I am redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14)
I am a child of God (John 1:12)
I am chosen to bear fruit (John 15:16)
I am one of Gods living stones, being built up in Christ as a spiritual house (1Peter 2:5)
I am Gods Co-worker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
I have direct access to God (Ephesians 2:18)
I do not have a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind (2 Timothy 2:7)
So rather than think of myself in terms of some exalted ancestors and pretend to myself that I am somehow a better person because of what they did perhaps I should turn this mind set on its head and be humbled that God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, has made these things possible, loves me and fully accepts me regardless of who I am.