My Psalm 90
I am – The Family
Once upon a time there were meticulous records kept. After all, the first recorders of mankind were the priests and scribes. Rulers often had no reason to record the exact number they governed. If they did, they could be held accountable for their governing and let’s face it, not everyone was deemed worth governing or….saving.
Some anthropologists claim the need for self-worth is the basis of all spiritual beliefs, whether those of organized religions or simply tribal customs. Others list the library of the Church of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, in Salt Lake City, Utah, has evidence of the wisdom of religious records keeping. The Mormon Library contains one of the most extensive and expansive genealogies available in the United States of America.
We all have a past. How we remember it, though, is up for discussion. Get together with cousins and you soon realize that no two people remember the same events exactly the same. They might agree on who called together the group, the reason for the togetherness, and maybe even what food was served. However, who caught what fish, who started which water balloon fight, who put whose sandwich in the lake…..Those are the things that we remember differently and usually it is dependent upon our age and whether or not we were the aggressor or the victim.
In the early and middle parts of the twentieth century, the Episcopal Church was said to have the best-kept records of church membership among the more widely recognized and organized denominations. Some even offered the criticism that their administrative responsibilities overshadowed their other aspects of living their faith. After all, are we called to keep tabs or called to serve?
Today is September 5th. It was on this day that Sam Houston was elected president. What? Quickly go through the list of forty-plus presidents of the USA in your mind. “There is no President Sam Houston of the USA?” You’re right. He was elected President of the Republic of Texas. He would also serve two terms as US Senator which happened after he was adopted by the Cherokee Nation Indians…and that happened after he led their removal from their native lands in Tennessee to an Indian reservation in Arkansas.
Houston, known for the US Army post named in his honor and the metropolitan city and home of NASA which bear his name, was born in Virginia and raised in Tennessee. As a teenager he ran away from home and lived with the Cherokee Indians for a few years. A survivor of the fight at the Alamo, he later campaigned as governor of Texas after helping lead the admittance for statehood. However, he was against Texas seceding to join the Confederate States of America and lost the election. He died of pneumonia halfway through the Civil War. Known as a Texan in posterity, Houston was a man of many layers, many allegiances, all in one life.
Today is also the feast day of approximately sixteen saints. From a Vietnamese martyr to European followers, those remembered this day were also people with many layers. What strikes me about studying the lives of the saints is that none were perfect and that none generally set out to become saints. Some were rich people who lived a life of entitlement until coming to the realization that they were simply a small part of a greater whole. Others had life-altering experiences which led them to their faith. Some simply lived…and they died never imagining they would one day be remembered as such.
We remember, however, because someone kept a record. No wonder that small children are often told there is a great book in which are recorded all our deeds and transgression, our actions and maybe even our thoughts. This great library of our life, we are also told, will one day be used as the basis for our staying in a lovely eternal dwelling place or being consigned either to a life of nothingness or a dungeon of horrors. Little wonder then that we tend to expect our houses of faith to be excellent records keepers.
Another great source for genealogical discovery is the website ancestry.com. Subscribers can establish a family tree and search out similar names on other trees. Connections are made and there is a great sense of accomplishment when one’s name appears on a limb of such a tree. It is almost as if someone maintain these records, much like the church records of old, gives an added sense of validity to our beings.
My question to you is this: Do records really make our existence valid? What does it say about us if we need that? I have been in a religious organization in which the record of my membership seemed displaced. Constructing another took time and was irritating. However, I realized that if I felt it important, I needed to find the patience, forget the judgment of “You should already have this!”, and help recreate my administrative presence. I have felt the little sense of wonder and pride when my name popped up on the genealogical website with a little leaf beside my name. I have also searched census records and found a long lost maiden aunt’s recorded name beside a relative and been brought to tears. This woman who died without progeny was remembered for having lived, it seemed. Of course, by feeling that, I was forgetting her raising of the relative with whom she was recorded, the relative who did marry and produce offspring which continued the family line. All that was the result of this one woman’s efforts in helping raise an orphan. I was, in fact, proof of her existence.
No matter what your belief system is, you are the proof of their existence. The so-called prizes of living a faithful life, whether it be a city of golden buildings in the stratosphere or a number of lovely, eager women serving one’s every needs, are carrots to the metaphorical rabbit of our lives. They exist to encourage us to live a life of goodness, of following one’s beliefs. The living is the goal, not the after-life. Living is what makes a life – not records or the biggest house or the most killed.
Power has never been the goal of any belief system. The goal is to be a better person, to leave a legacy of goodness. That is the proof of our existence, not a name written down somewhere. Family will the ones we help as well as the ones we love and claim as relations. Some leave buildings in their name and some, even though they disagree with current events, are remembered for their actions overall, not just one day. Some simply leave descendants who one day will wish for better records to know their history. By forgiving, we focus on humanity. It was the humanity, not the written record or even the celebration of saints, which made us one family of man. It is the realization that all will err that allows us to forgive and love one another. The best family legacy might just be the ones we forgive.
My Psalm 90 – This is the only psalm attributed to Moses and so, I am writing as if Moses, talking to God near the end of his/Moses’ life
I call to you, my God.
Again I come to you asking for the why’s and how’s.
Ten little things, you said.
Ten easy steps for living.
They are not so easy for man.
What are we doing wrong?
Why do we not understand how to live them?
How do they explain life?
We are born in your arms.
We live in fear of your wrath.
We die and become that from which you made all of Creation.
This is the cycle of our life.
Where is the meaning?
What do we not understand?
Our lives are but a merry-go-round of effort and repentance.
To us they are forever; to you they are but a second.
We seek to understand
As we seek to grow closer in our lives.
Help us learn, O Lord.
Help us survive our living.
As the sands of our lives run out,
Let us use them to build.
Do not let the waves of others destroy what we seek to build.
Through pain and joy, let us remember you are always with us.