Thinking this morning about the weekend past with my cousins and sisters (two of each). We represented three branches of my father's family tree. A full decade separates us in age (I am the oldest granddaughter of my grandparents' 23 grandchildren--from their 4 prolific children, so and we five women weren't even half of the female cousins--but hey, it's a start!), and ideologies and ideologies separate us as well. Read that to mean that three of us walk with Christ and two do not. However, we managed to talk our way through the weekend anyway.
Mostly that talk revolved our families. And our family, which isn't surprising. Our shared heritage. What was is how much each of us thought we knew or understood about our history, but didn't quite. It was only hearing the others' stories that we could put pieces of the puzzle together that began to make more sense of things that had baffled or misguided our perceptions for decades.
For example, one Seattle cousin has always thought that our dad had 'gotten out' of the rather inborn, disfunctional family system that was our larger family. Three households lived in triangular walking distance until she was in her twenties and she just thought he couldn't handle being that close so he moved across the state (my hunch is that she was helped in this perception by a grandmother who resented that her favorite--and only--son lived 300 miles away). She was very surprised to learn that he/we tried to move back to Seattle after getting his PhD, but couldn't because his father was in the same department at the only state university in Seattle--and two profs from the same family (with the exact same name!) wasn't allowed. So Dad applied (and got) a position as close as he could get--at Washington State University. Yes, it was three hundred miles away--but only that. "Oh," she said. "That makes a lot of sense."
And I learned new things too. From my own sister who told a rather in-depth analysis of why/how my father died--one that I had never heard. It took away the mystery but left me very sad because it also took away the possibility of his life. I realize this sounds ridiculous because--obviously--he died. But he was never going to live. He hadn't a chance of surviving. And I suppose I'd just closed my ears to it because I wanted to imagine a stretched out life of a dozen more years. But she cleared up my misconceptions, whether I wanted emotionally wanted them cleared or not. Family history is nuanced. Full of such things that we can't know by ourselves. Full of emotions like my grandmother wanting to hold my father close during his life and me wanting to hold onto his life after it was gone. Flawed and nuanced. And we need our relatives to help us see beyond our own flawed, nuanced perceptions to get to the truth.
As I was waking up this morning it hit me that these collective memories of ours--these shared truths that clear up misconceptions--go a long ways in describing why there can be--should be!--four different gospels, and three with virtually the same stories. We read something from a single person and we get one impression. We don't see the whole thing clearly. Taken from four people, set down with four points of view, with different 'family' (read apostle here) of origin as THE origin, and what we get is something so much more layered that we can trust it.
Trust it too, of course, because, unlike family history, which is flawed and nuanced, the gospels are God-breathed. Inspired. In-Spirited, I guess you could say. Maybe, though, still nuanced. I think that word. Nuanced. Fraught with meaning. Layered with it. We can find our way to the source--which is HIM--through those nuances. But also through the sharp-edged sword of it. He will meet us in the gospels, meet us and clear up our misconceptions, re-orient us to Him.
PS. One more thing:
My cousin took this picture with a powerful lens on her camera while we were walking on Saturday morning. To naked eye, it looked like a log bobbing far out in Drayton Harbor (right at the Canadian border). But a telescope pointed at it revealed the truth--fat seals sun-bathing on a fixed dock.
To the naked human eye, the Word of God looks like one thing. A book. Perhaps it contains wise words in places, but it doesn't breathe them. Certainly nothing living. It takes a very powerful AID for us to see the TRUTH. We need the Holy Spirit to reveal that the Word of God is Him. That it does more than hold words but is His Word. His written word. Given. Placed there--not accidentally, but tethered to this earth (like that dock in the harbor)--for us to hold and read and hear Him speak.