I remember writing a newsletter a few years ago about how much I enjoy working with genealogy. I should add it’s the kind of ‘enjoy’ that’s similar to playing golf. For most people, playing golf frustrates more than satisfies. You play and you’re still way over par and yet you keep going back for more. We keep going back because there’s some mechanism in our brains that lets us forget the 10 bad shots we made and remember the one great shot. Well, genealogy’s like that. You run into these brick walls and just can’t find any way around them. It’s frustrating, but for some strange reason you keep going back and playing genealogy. You know in your wee little brain somewhere you’ve exhausted every avenue of discovery, but you keep trying, hoping and dreaming of finding something that surprises you.
I was going over some family notes the other day, using the internet again, trying to get past one of those brick walls. Some say the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well, that may be true except, of course, when it comes to genealogy. You just keep doing the same thing over and over and just maybe, unexpectedly, something shows up you can use. I do feel a little self-conscious whenever Jane looks over at me sitting at the computer and I have the usual ‘Family-Tree Maker’ software up and I’m sitting at my desk staring at the screen. It’s kind of like I’m waiting for some inspiration to come and send me off on this journey to the ‘Neverland’ of genealogy. She just shakes her head and knows that no amount of logic or persuasion can get me to give up looking for that one little bit of information that will lead me to ‘striking gold’ in the family tree.
Recently, there I sat, staring at the computer screen. It occurred to me why hadn’t I just simply asked my grandfather about his family? It would have been so simple to ask him. His name alone should have caused me to ask something about the family. I mean, why Blanchard Rufus? ‘How did you get tagged with that name Grandpa?’ Why didn’t I ask him just one question in all the years? I spent almost 21 years of my life in his life and not one question about his mom and dad. As I sat there, it dawned on me why I had not asked anything about his parents. They did not exist! Now, I know very obviously, he did have a mother and father, but when you’re all consumed with yourself (just the way it is when you’re young, and sometimes as an adult), centered entirely on yourself, you can’t think about the reality of anything older than your Grandma and Grandpa. That’s as old as old can be for kids. You mean my grandparents had parents? You mean Blanchard Rufus was two years old once? Go figure!
Now you think I’m kidding, don’t you? I’m not. All I remember is some 70-year old bald man. As a child, it just didn’t cross my mind that anything went beyond what was in my world at that moment in time. Kids have a crippling disadvantage at life. You see, kids only live in the moment. They are either: happy and therefore loud, or sad and therefore loud. They have no interest in the past and little interest in the future. That’s our present problem. You see, we are children of God…we’re just like kids! Our interest and vision is too narrow and it only consists of our needs for the moment. We want what we want right now! We take very little time to think about the big picture. We don’t care about what happened before and what will happen in the future. ‘Hey God! Just give me what I want now.’
It would be much better if we were full grown but it seems we aren’t. However, there’s a hope in the heart of God for us. He waits for us as we continue to come into a perfect (the Greek meaning is mature) believer. In the natural world, as we mature, something changes about our vision. When I was a child, I was around the greatest source of information about my family-my grandparents, but I was oblivious to it! I could have cared less. I was so unaware of anything other than my own little life-circle that it could not enter my mind that there was anything to care about. Today, I could kick myself for being so careless. Now, I sit and stare at that computer screen and think about how much I could have filled in the blanks if only it had crossed my mind that John had William, and William begat James Alfred and James Alfred was the father of Blanchard.
Now I have thousands of questions but it’s too late. All my interest came too late for me to take advantage of it. For the most part, it seems to parallel our interest in the Gospel. It took me 35 years to get interested enough in the Love of God for me to start searching it out and how it might affect the present and my future. I was born again at 16 years old but I wasted half my life never thinking about it much. Just didn’t cross my mind to pay attention to the fact that our Father left us a letter to encourage us, to direct us in our life. It’s a love letter about how much He cares about us, takes an interest in us. It’s a message of how much He thinks about us, even when we don’t think much about Him.
Now, we all find ourselves at the cross-roads of the secular and spiritual. Today, we live in the ‘super-bowl’ of struggles between those two world-views. And in the middle of that, we very seldom check the owner’s manual (Bible) on how to keep this ‘world’ running. There’s a rich past to look at and to gather before it’s too late, before it all passes away. We’re at the cross-roads of being child-like and mature. We can continue to be relatively unaware of the world around us and only think in terms of ‘where’s mine’. We can continue to perceive the world as it affects each of us individually, or we can look past this moment to our family history, actually to what Family we are a part of (the family of God).
Today, I’m sorry for having been so consumed with my own life as a child, my own way, not thinking about my grandfather’s life and family. Wish I’d taken more interest in things past and things future. It would be a great joy to have taken just a moment to consider the lives of my grandfather, his wife and children and family ties, rather than only thinking about myself. I still have a couple keepsakes and some wonderful memories of our time together but I’m missing the most interesting keepsake: knowing about him personally and how he thought, things he found interesting and the things he found valuable.
Perhaps you’re just like I was at 16, born again but just standing around scratching your head trying to figure out ‘what’s next’. I don’t mean necessarily getting into the genealogy thing, but how ‘bout the suggestion to get as much information as you can about the Father? Many times we live only for the moment. We measure our lives by what is happening only in that particular moment in time. We ignore the future even thought there is a day common for all of us. If everything we believe is true about Dad, as we mature in His message, as we grow up in Him, we will want to know more about how he thinks, who He is, what He is interested in, what He found valuable and not just that He exists. After all you don’t want to get caught just sitting staring at the screen and not have a clue about your ‘Family-tree’ when the thing crashes for the last time! We have such a rich family history and future to be learned about now.