Growing up, our next door neighbours were Indigenous Australians. Overall there was a heartfelt respect for those who struggled and reverence for those who gave their all for our current freedoms.
My parents benefited from welfare programs that enabled us to have a home, food and basic clothing. We also witnessed the darker side of a community when it goes from being a welfare dependent season-of-life, to being a welfare dependent culture.
Even though my agnostic-at-the-time parents were cultural Anglicans, my sister and I attended a Catholic Primary School, where we found ourselves part of a denominational minority.
We didn’t always fit.
We rarely owned brand new school clothes, trendy school bags or school shoes. There were also times when the schoolyard elite were more than happy to go beyond just verbally measuring our worth by my parents socio-economic situation.
Yet, God reigns. It is by His grace, that through these experiences, I can teach my kids about what it means to live in victory, not victimhood. Working through those experiences has provided me with a great deal to reach for when I’m teaching my kids about mercy, justice, fairness, compassion, and personal responsibility.
It’s a lifeline akin to the hope established by Joseph’s words to His brothers, ‘You meant for evil against me, but God meant it for good’ (Gen. 50:20).
Some great examples of this are found in African-American history. It’s here that a recent lesson began. Our starting point was Louis Armstrong’s ‘Black and Blue’, which then led to a few comments read aloud from Booker T. Washington’s, ‘Up from Slavery’ and an introduction to Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Emancipation Proclamation.’
From there I directed our homeschoolers attention to the lament in Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’. Introduced Martin Luther King Jnr. Talked about his assassination in 1968 and listened to some of his preaching. We then encountered the magnificent voice of Mahalia Jackson and identified some jarring truths found within the poetry of Maya Angelou.
Of historical significance, each document, word and song gives a different perspective. Each delivered through a unique text type. All expressing, through their very existence, the promise of those who chose, by God’s grace, to live in victory, not victimhood.
There the theological reality forms a solid ledge for us all to safely stand on. It’s established in knowing the difference between human triumphalism and God’s triumph in Jesus Christ.
We have victory because Jesus is Victor! It means that we shall indeed overcome. With this comes the need to recognise that even with our effort, the entire credit belongs to God (Psalm 115).
It is on our behalf that God acts. Through His act we are pointed beyond our broken stories, beyond ourselves, towards His Word to where the roar of new life breaches the walls of apparent darkness. It is by His act that we are released to respond boldly to the present, bravely forgive, learn from the past and teach towards tomorrow.
‘The past not only shapes and illuminates the present but anticipates the future.’
– Alistair McGrath [ii]
[i] Quote: ‘God still owns tomorrow’ is from Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be A Woman 1999, p.31
[ii] ‘Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution’ HarperCollins, 2007, p.10