Friday, November 6, 2009

Comfort and Acceptance

Statue of John Wesley outside Wesley Church in...

At or about the same time my great grandfather was engaged in a gun fight over cards (Heritage 6/3/09), a little to the north and on the other side of the family, one of my great uncles was a circuit-riding Methodist minister. In those days, rural communities may or may not have had an organized church, so they depended on ministers who were assigned a particular circuit and rode horseback from one community to the next over the course of a month.

As may have been common among circuit-riders, my great uncle kept a diary that has been passed along in the family. Being an ambitious young minister myself in college, I was eager to read his story, imagining we had in our possession the equivalent of The Journals of John Wesley. If you've read any of Wesley's writings, even as an historical exercise, you know his Journals contain the development of his theology which eventually coalesced into Methodism more or less as it's known today.

After the first couple of pages, I realized my great uncle wasn't John Wesley and his interests were far more ordinary. Instead of reflections on the nature of religious experience or even the details of local history, most of his entries include a date, which family he stayed with, what they had for supper, and whether anyone had been sick, given birth, or died lately. It was more an Excel spreadsheet than a Word document.

Like most people, I suppose, I've always rather hoped a scribbled note in the margins of my family history would reveal a connection with someone who "did something." And maybe there is such a note, but I've never seen it. A court house fire in the mid-1800s severed the cord that links what is to what might have been, so there are questions that won't ever be answered. Becoming comfortable with who we are sometimes involves learning to live with what we may never know. And accepting that we don't need to know everything to be comfortable with what we do.


(Public domain image of John Wesley via Wikipedia)
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