Tumbling in the Sand
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor … The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” – Deuteronomy 26: 5-9 (selections)
A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…. I think that is a really awesome way to ground one’s spirituality. A wandering Aramean. A nomad. A no name. An outsider … was my ancestor, therefore I have no stake to claim, no inherent right to something. I start this journey with nothing.
I have to say, I find those Ancestry sites online hilarious. You can trace your ancestry back to some noble somewhere … or at least a fascinating rouge (a good pirate or viking, anyone?). I have a lot of doubt in the legitimacy of this, by the way. We aren’t all descendants of royalty, though apparently, we’d all like to be. I suppose it makes us feel more important, more like the world owes us something, more like we deserve everything we get that is good and that we don’t deserve anything we get that is bad. I understand wanting to believe this, but you know, I’ve noticed when we start that way, we set ourselves up to be bitter and selfish about life—because the cosmos never gives us everything we think we deserve and it always seems like someone is getting it better than we think they ought. Life isn’t “fair” like that. And while bloodline certainly starts us all off with some advantage or disadvantage in our social hierarchies, in the end, I’m not convinced it is at all wise or helpful to one’s being or the health of our communities and world to hold on to it as some sort of right.
Instead, I like the idea of starting with the knowledge that we come from nothing, from no one important, from the average, the excluded, the outcast (they are often the more interesting people, anyway). Because when we do, everything is a gift. Our privilege, our work, our family, our food, our money, our achievements, our education are all gifts—to be rejoiced in and shared as the passage in Deuteronomy suggests. When we see what we have as gift rather than what is due, it is far easier to rejoice in it, to share it, and to hold it lightly. I think that is probably a wise way to look at the world, the heart of how one survives and thrives in the desert, and I think, really, that that is the root of understanding grace.