When I first came up with the idea for a blog I knew that I wanted others to share their experience alongside what I was writing. My vision for This Winter Woman is to create a safe place where others can share their journey. It is our combined experiences that give us a more realized view of who God is. My dear friend, Celia Nicholson graciously accepted my invitation to be the first guest post.
Celia is part of a group of friends that helped mend my broken heart and shattered faith after I left traditional church. She has devoted her life to living out what she preaches, and she consistently challenges and inspires me. When she sent over this piece I was so excited that I almost posted it immediately.
I am so honored to share this with you.
The Redemption of Repetition
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5
History repeats itself.
We’ve all heard it our whole lives, usually said with a sigh of resignation or a hint of disdain.
Tied up in this refrain we hear a note of condescension directed toward those poor, unenlightened people who came before us. They didn’t realize what we know so well, and because of their ignorance, history did, in fact, repeat itself for them. Time and time again.
But we know that now. We know more. We are more civilized and educated than they ever were. We have better technology, and a more robust understanding of the human condition. We have car decals that proclaim, “Never Again.” History will not repeat itself on our watch, oh no. No, we are the ones to stop that wretched cyclical pattern. We are the ones who can step outside of time and thousands upon thousands of years of human behavior and bring that repetitious momentum to a screeching halt like never before. Future generations will look back on our time as the moment that humanity learned to stop repeating its mistakes. “That is when true enlightenment began,” they will say, with reverence.
And then we go and elect Donald Trump.
We the people elected, well, I was going to go into the reasons he’s merely the latest tired copy of all the demagogues and authoritarians and dictators and megalomaniacs of the past, but chances are you’ve already read up on that and you have your own views, and that’s not what this is about. He doesn’t get to take up that much real estate in my guest post. (Ha – see what I did there? Real estate? I crack myself up.)
I had a revelation about our relationship with history shortly after the presidential election of 2016. I realized that there’s gravity behind this maddening redundancy. I realized it is not birthed from a series of choices people make, or from passivity where action is required, or from ignorance I can self-importantly contrast with my own perceived intelligence. No, history is bound to repeat itself. There’s some kind of cosmic contract, some Sisyphean trickery, some uncompromising fate. Some blessed hope.
You see, we know exactly what all our forebears knew. A life-giving, God-breathed, blessed secret.
History repeats itself.
And because I know this, because I know the crushing wheel of time cannot be stopped but that the story has already been told, I get to choose who I want to be in the imminent retelling.
Because there’s a cast of characters that always shows up. The powerful people. The oppressed people. The I’m-just-going-to-mind-my-own-business-and-stay-out-of-trouble people.
And then there are the Malala Yousafzais. The Irena Sendlers. The Harriet Tubmans. The Abigail Adamses. The Rahabs. The Hebrew midwives. They show up, again and again and again, in our histories and our literature and our sacred texts. There is always room for these characters.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
Usually that passage from Ecclesiastes elicits ennui—but I’m choosing to read it as a charge:
Esther was here before our time when she broke the law and risked her life to save the Jewish people from extermination.
Pocahontas was here before our time when she threw herself between a stranger and execution.
Leymah Gbowee was here before our time when she organized the women of Liberia to bring peace to a war-torn country.
Their past example mirrors the mystery of the “now and not yet” of Jesus’ redemptive work. They were the “now” of their time; we are the “not yet” of time endured. Jesus sets for us a perfect example of who to choose to be in a hurting and hurtful world: lovers of God and bringers of hope, unafraid to touch the leper and recline in the homes of tax collectors and sinners.
In our common, patterned experience of human life, our faithful God has crafted the world so that in these times, we don’t have to forge the path of the faithful ex nihilo—no, it is ours to “Remember [our] leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7 Even unto death, and certainly unto life.
History repeats itself. Thank God.
A note from the author:
Several years ago, Alyse had to write a blog for a college class. I don’t recall the name of the class, but I do remember some of the things I learned from her blog. If memory serves, it was about influential Floridian women, and it’s where I learned about Roxcy Bolton. Roxcy is the reason hurricanes are no longer exclusively named after women, and Alyse is the reason I know about Roxcy. With the end of her class came the end of that blog. Ever since then, I’ve hoped my dear friend would take up blogging again–our world needs her voice. I’ve loved getting to stand alongside her as This Winter Woman starts up. We text often, bouncing ideas off of one of another, ranting, encouraging, reminding each other that it’s okay to rest and that we don’t get to choose who God loves. So when she asked me if I wanted to write a guest post, I was excited and nervous. After all, the internet is forever. What if I want to run for office one day? Or what if down the line there are political witch hunts? Or, most sobering of all, what if I write something that does not come across lovingly and it unintentionally burns a bridge? But I’ve been realizing that the generally accepted idea that no blog or Facebook article ever changed someone’s mind is false and small-minded. My mind has changed and grown since the birth of social media by reading tons and tons and tons of articles, some affirming my beliefs and some challenging them. And so if this gives you something new to think about or simply encourages you where you are, I write this in the hopes that it can be one tiny cobblestone in the path you walk toward love and kindness, God,and grace.
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