Where we come from matters

Oct 4, 2013 | Manna for the Soul, Nehemiah

Where we come from matters – but not as much as how we are!

1:1b These are the memoirs of Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah.

In the first edition we saw that the title became interesting as soon as we realised that we were speaking about memoirs. Memoirs don’t emerge out of nothing: they are the fruit of the whole way in which the Lord has led us. We have not sprung from nowhere either!

By the way, Nehemiah’s name means ‘Yahweh has comforted” – and Hacaliah, probably means either, ‘Wait for Yahweh,’ or ‘whom Yahweh has enlightened.’ Although it is Nehemiah we are going to be focusing on rather than Hacaliah, it is no accident that the genealogy tables are given such prominence in Scripture.

There is a reason why the Lord says:

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
you who seek the Lord:
look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
(Is. 51:1 ESV)

Genealogies don’t need to be uninteresting!

I have been reflecting on the seemingly `boring` long lists of genealogies in the Bible – and feeling that the Lord really does want us to know and understand something of our lineage: how He lines things up so beautifully for time and eternity, even though the `threads’ that link everything together often seem so frail and fragile, just as they were in Jesus’ own lineage.

A playwright could have a field day with many of us when it comes to digging out the details of how we came to be who we are and where we are! I am finding it deeply moving to explore my family roots while in the process of clearing out my Mum’s house. I knew I had an Australian granny, but that was about all. The details I am discovering about my unknown relatives are fascinating.

My great great grandfather, who I had never even heard of until a few weeks ago, was an extraordinary man. Originally a poor cottar from Perthshire, who spoke only Gaelic until his teen years, he emigrated to Australia with just a bag of carpentry tools. He became highly successful, rising to be mayor of Rockhampton, (three times) an MP, and then a highly esteemed Australian Senator.

My grandmother herself was on her way to England to receive an honour from the Queen, but met her future husband on the boat (my grandfather). She was later diagnosed with a serious cancer and died in 1946. Remarkably, she is buried in Pershore, just a few miles from our home in Malvern.

Storytelling as a means of Learning

“Tell me a story” is the cry of every child, and the Bible is full of stories. What I have been attempting to do is to apply this concept to my work, and even to carve out a recognised place for them in the curriculum of Higher Education Institutes where ‘processing, functionality and efficiency’ are so often the order of the day.

All lecturers in our sector are now expected to have a third degree, at PhD level, so I am in the process of developing a research proposal on a theme I have explored on several previous occasions: how the telling of stories can play a strategic role in developing learning for future practitioners.

Students invariably remember the well-told stories I tell them better than large chunks of information on boring power point presentations. The stories they hear from each other likewise have power to develop confidence in practice, and come back to guide and influence when they, in turn, are facing similar situations.

Jesus was, of course, the greatest story teller of all. He drew extensively from the shared common experience of life around Him to illustrate deep and lasting truths, using images that would have been familiar to all. Whereas what I have researched in the past has been specifically linked to midwifery, this time, if my proposal is accepted (only a very few are accepted for the course I am applying to) I would like to explore the concept of storytelling as an important teaching and learning tool right across the health and social care professions.

Applications for life (Robert)

Before we embark on Nehemiah’s story in earnest, let’s take time out this week to ponder something of where we come from. Scripture is quite clear that when we are born again of the Spirit, we become an entirely new person in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17 and 1 Pet. 1:23) and an entirely new spiritual blood line is born.

At another level, the DNA which makes up our physical being is a complex process which profoundly affects our emotional being. Without going overboard about our family tree many of us find it helpful to know something of where we come from.

Whether we come from fundamentally good or bad stock, humanly speaking, let’s pray that the heritage we leave behind may deeply enrich others.

People often say, “I’ll never do such and such or be like my mother/father/whoever!” but then end up doing the same thing, or even becoming a carbon copy of those same people. That is usually because they were reacting to some perceived fault – but in their own strength rather than with the grace and forgiveness that comes from the Lord.

  • Think for a moment of your own family line, as best you are aware of it.
  • Are there strengths to appreciate and to tap into?
  • Are there weaknesses we need to be on the watch for?
  • Failings that may be systemic rather than just one off episodes?
  • Traits that need to be brought to the Cross in non-judgemental but specific ways so that you are able to be free of their influence?
  • What are the unique gifts God has given you? Play to those strengths and don’t let others, past or present, shape yourself into a mould. you’re not answerable for them to parents and others who have even not be around anymore, but first and foremost to the Lord Himself!

Just as Dominic has inherited his lovely auburn hair from both his great grandmothers, many characteristics and even callings often emerge at some point that had seen the light of life before in previous ways. Then we are able to inherit, cherish and refine all that is godly from our past, whilst filtering everything through the Cross to keep compromise and worse from flowing through our lives.

Working through this list will often mean starting with forgiveness, not least because unforgiveness spreads far and fast. As with so many other areas where our deepest emotions and responses are concerned ‘the prayers of others can reach the parts our own cannot’ (to subtly rework the well-known advertisement)! May we have the courage and the determination to open up to someone in these areas and have the humility to ask for empowering prayer.

May the next generation be as minimally contaminated and as maximally blessed as sparked and empowered by our example as possible.

1 Comment

  1. stephen Atkins

    “You cannot have a present without a past…..and you cannot have a future without a present.” ( Tony Wherry, County Archivist, Worcesters.) ”
    There seems to be a considerable interest in Genealogy according to a course in which I have been involved in, and I wonder if this interest has developed from the effects of the Nucleur family in which this nation finds itself, resulting in social isolation, a need for indidvidual identity and belonging.
    There are as you rightly state sprirtual implications, for instance, information from the International Genealogical Index, the surname which I have originates from Norfolk, a Saxon name, Atkins, which stands for Adam’s kine, so this proves that I have come from Adam !
    From a spiritual perspective, which I have recorded, whilst I was an embryo, a bomb dropped on our house, the family was out at the time, if not, I would not be here.
    From records which I have, my 3x gt grandfather and his wife took their sons to be baptised in the Bible Believing Church ( precursor to Methodism ) in Old St. Shoreditch.
    Since then I can recall events where God has guided sometimes from major disasters although some deaths have occured, the Christian witness has continued and the Lord has led this line, and I am sure others would find similar revelations.

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