The Way We Learn Our Own History

For some of us it’s easier than others.

Last Friday night, my Edmiston family enjoyed a Post-Wedding celebration (thank you Covid) and while there were no formal family history shares, I love how the brain (i.e. the Spirit) reminds us of moments we might have forgotten. While watching my cousins and sister dancing to Justin Timberlake in a circle, I flashed back to the same people – as children – dancing to Sammy Davis, Jr. in our cousins’ living room.

On Saturday, my Linker cousins enjoyed a luncheon at the table of our matriarch while passing around old photos and telling stories that reminded me of my grandmother’s spark and my mother’s grace. I also got to hear stories they would never have told me as a child.

On Sunday, First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte celebrated their 200th Anniversary and the preacher took us back to all those who had walked along the road by the church building from the Native Catawba to the NFL Panthers. And as I spent part of the afternoon reading Lois Stickell’s 200 Years in the Heart of Charlotte: A History of First Presbyterian Church, I was grateful for her truth-telling in times when truth-telling feels rare:

At the dawn of creation, a billion years ago, the land that First Presbyterian Church occupies did not exist. No land existed east of where the Blue Ridge Mountains sit today. There was only an ocean with islands and small continents. As tectonic plates shifted, those pieces of land collided to create eastern North America. Seven hundred million years later, the African plate hit the North American plate with enough force to create mountain ranges as tall as the Himalays all the way to middle Tennessee. Lois Stickell

Reading this brought great comfort to me. It shares the geological science that tells a story much different from the Genesis story of the world being created in 7 days, and that’s fine with me. The Bible is not a science book. It’s the story of God’s power and unmeasurable love.

The preacher proclaimed Good News from The Parable of the Good Samaritan and I remember that Jesus – like most rabbis – explained things through parables which are the shocking stories told to reveal the depths of God’s love. Jesus made up this story to make a point: that those who show mercy are our neighbors – even if they are the most unlikely candidates.

As we go along the ancient and new roads of life, we are called to be neighbors if only we will see them all as God’s children.

Some of our personal stories, some of our church stories, some of our national stories are crushing. Along with those family members who showed mercy, there are always those who traumatized us. Along with the church stories that led us to Jesus and filled our souls to the bursting, there are always stories of exclusion and cruelty. Along with the stories of our nation living in unity and pulling together to bring healing after 9/11, there are heinous stories of unspeakable brutality again Natives and the Enslaved, not to mention the reactions of some of us to show intolerance towards Muslims after the Towers fell.

My neighbors – and my family – include heroes and rounders, saints and sinners, and so do yours. It’s not only good to see all their faces. It’s good to remember that we need mercy as much as the next person.

Image of Wade Hampton Linker – my great-grandfather – who was surely a good and also imperfect man. He was named for Confederate General Wade Hampton who is lauded as a great leader who also held 335 human beings as slaves in 1860.

2 responses to “The Way We Learn Our Own History

  1. Jan, Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Love the pic of Grandpa Linker.


    Sent from my iPhone



  2. That last paragraph held an interesting tidbit, one that made me go, “ooof!” We had a member in our American Baptist Church whose name was Wade Hampton. I had no idea there was history to the name.


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