Posts Tagged ‘identity’

Looking for something to consider and meditate upon in the first twenty verses or so of Matthew is not easy. Many years ago, I created a performance piece that illustrated the lives of the five women of this genealogy, but it is only now that I discover that there is controversy over this list. In other places in scripture and Jewish history, the generations are not equally fourteen by fourteen by fourteen. What gives?

Matthew 1:17
Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

If anyone is interested in a discussion of this discrepancy, there is a good (although somewhat dense) article in the Harvard Theological Review by George F. Moore. Most of it appears to be the need for synchronicity in the expectation of the coming Messiah. It’s a case of cycles. In a world where cycles were seen each year and marked with feasts and worshipful sacrifices, they were critical. We experience cycles in our own world, but, perhaps more dependent on one’s lifestyle or geography. After all, not every area of our country or world experiences the four seasons, some only have three (cold, hot, and rain). Others maybe two, warm and snow. Or what about the other cycles we’ve arbitrarily created? How many of us, because of the beginning of school in the fall, start something new at that same time of year? And there are those who follow the church calendar, another kind of cycle. And still others, follow the monthly cycles of their bodies.

Cycles help us give meaning to the changes in our lives. It is a wheel of time, if you will. I believe time is the most critical of all dimensions for human. We can do nothing to change the march of time (although there may be some extraordinary humans who have discovered a way to break the skin of time and have entered another dimension . . . and still others who have traveled space and played tricks with time). But most of us are slaves to cycles of time.

Even now, I keep glancing at the clock in the lower right hand corner of my screen. Time is marching and I must go to work. I’m late.

In recent years, many people have hungered for knowledge of their personal genealogies. They are looking back. They want to count their generations. Where are each one of us in the cycle of our generations? Where is the beginning point? And where might we be heading?

I am the accumulation of my generations past. I am a contributor to the generations of my future, whether biological or not. I am a point in time. Or an exclamation mark. Or a question. I am a breath. I am a color, a sound, a mark.

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“Confiscation of property” goes back a long, long time in the guise of political necessity or religious cleansing. Could I let go of my stuff willingly in the face of injustice?

Hebrews 10:34
You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

As a first generation American, stories abounded at the dinner table about the terrible losses our family and their friends suffered at the hands of both the Nazis and Communists during WWII.

When I met my half-sister for the first time in Latvia, 1997, she regaled me with stories about “our” father in his youth and then the terrible time of flight from oncoming forces, first from the West and then from the East. Karlis, in fear of conscription, fled his farmland and hoped his wife and child would be safe enough. Instead, the communists came through and took the land, giving the women only a few days to gather what they could carry and flee to the city of Riga. Once there, they were never united with my father again, who was caught by the Germans and forced into service as a guard.

They lost everything. This is just one family’s story, but of course, just a quick look at a newspaper shows entire villages fleeing for their lives, bundles piled upon their heads. They take what they can carry and no more.

What would I take? What is the most valuable? Would I lug out my laptop or my hard drive? Albums of pictures? My bible? Which clothes? How much can I really carry? Would I get the cat carriers, the dog leashes, the plant I’ve nurtured over 30 years of marriage?

No. Not really. These are the things of the “matrix.” No matter how tender I may feel toward them all, there is really just life itself and faith in the eternal Spirit.

One of my favorite Ann Tyler books is Ladder of Years: the main character walks away from her family and leaves everything, including them, during a beach vacation. Naturally, she causes her family some chaos and pain and concern, but for me, the tantalizing part is her slow discovery of self without the stuff that had come to rule her identity. She walked until she couldn’t walk anymore. She hitched a ride, she ended up in a boarding house room and there she stayed for a long time. She had nothing. And yet, she had everything she needed to live on.

Sometimes it’s a storm, a Tsunami, a tornado, that takes away our possessions. And there is no way to minimize the dreadful sense of loss. And yet, if life remains, then spirit remains, and anything is possible next.

Will that day of challenge come into my life still? Could be. Yes. Could be.

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