Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Knowing Where You Come From

Oprah's show had an interesting segment today, about a Harvard professor that has been helping African Americans discover their genealogical roots. Chris Rock, the famous comedian, was featured. In his family history, he discovered that a great(x3?) grandfather served in the Civil War as a freed man and went on to own more than 60 acres of land and serve in local politics. All three of these accomplishments were quite impressive for any man, even more so for an African American in the years following the Civil war. They made an amazing impact on Chris Rock - he was visibly moved. He said a lot of pretty good stuff, about who he is now and how knowing about his roots changes his view of himself. But it's what he said below that really hit me hard. I'll be brewing on this one for a while.
"It's weird how you don't realize what low expectations you have for yourself until somebody shows you what your people have actually accomplished,"
This is the kind of conversation I have with my kids frequently. We have some very compelling characters in our family tree. A soldier who rode with the Rough Riders. A girl who gave up her family's business for love. Her husband, who had to find a way to raise his children after her death. Another father who drove an ice truck to feed his family. A girl who secured her passage to the States by working in Senator Seward's home. A young boy who played checkers on Harriet Tubman's front porch. Determined, gritty, salt-of-the-earth type of people who carved out lives for themselves and their families, no matter the struggle or the discrimination or the hardship. Many of them had deep faith in God and in this land they loved. All of them loved their families and sought to improve their lives. It's a lot to live up to, a lot to live in honor of.

Then there's us. We whine when the garbage man is a day late, or when the hot water runs out. We are offended when we lose a parking space to a faster driver. We complain that our curtains, our shoes, our jeans are out of date. We moan and groan about cooking dinner AGAIN. We get stuck in the mundane of life. We flounder in our ruts of comfort and pleasure and ease. We live our daily lives, often caught up in our To Do lists and our soccer schedules and our volunteer work at school and, yes, even in our church life. We do, do, do. We live below our expectations for ourselves in the craziness of this pace of life. And in doing so, we forget who we are. Where we came from. We start to sound like the Israelites again, only with better haircuts and stylish boots. We forget that we are children of the Most High God. That our accomplishments mean nothing without Him. That we are His workmanship. That we can be called His friends. That the most accomplished Man of all time, Jesus Christ, IS "our people." We often live way below His expectations for us.

Several years ago, I came across this resource. You've probably seen it, or a variation of it several times yourself. I've pulled it out many times over the years. When Chris Rock spoke about the impact that learning of his descendant's greatness had upon him, I pulled it up again. It's good stuff. It sets the bar high. It pushes me forward. And pulls me onward at the same time. Not only do I want to be found worthy of the lives & destinies of "my people," I want to be found worthy by the Creator of my people. I want to live to His expectations.

1 comment:

Heidi @ GGIP said...

What a great post! Those quotes from Chris Rock were compelling and I really appreciate how you made it personal to your family.