Writing by Faith

Voices From the Past

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Just outside my office sits the Lakebay cemetery, a peaceful little plot of land tucked away behind a thick hedge and madrona trees. Bordered by the Lakebay Church, on a hill that backs into Mayo Cove, it remains hidden to the campers who pass by on their way to Penrose Point or the boaters heading to Bay Lake. I suspect it is unknown even to many who call this place home.

I often walk the grounds of the cemetery, thinking of all who are buried there, wondering about their lives, their joys and troubles. Recently, I’ve been pondering what they would say to us, in the midst of a pandemic and financial meltdown coupled with political and racial polarization. What might they tell us?

I think they would say that we’re not the first to experience hard times. Every generation has endured plagues, famines, wars and depressions. The tyranny of the moment often causes us to think we’re unique, but we’re not alone in our suffering. This is nothing new. Our ancestors would remind us they knew hardship and they persevered.

Perhaps they would remind us of all we have in common, and that the things that separate us are often trivial. We are all one human race occupying this little corner of the universe. We want and need the same things, be they essentials like food, water and shelter, or necessities such as friendship, family, meaningful work and leisure time. In light of eternity, it’s foolish to let insignificant matters divide us.

I’m sure they would remind us that we are leaving our own legacy. We live in the world they built, and we will leave it for future generations. Will it be better than we found it, or will we destroy it in selfishness and greed? Will our grandchildren remember us with gratitude for the way we handled this moment, or will they pay the cost of our immaturity and arrogance?

I suspect they would tell us that we need each other. If we are to not just survive, but thrive, it will be because we learned to work together, to care about each other, to work as a community, a nation and a global humanity in creating new ways forward. Rather than bunkering down in fear, we must work with our neighbors if we hope to build something beautiful for the future.

The Bible says that going through life we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses made up of those who have gone before. Someday we will join them on the other side. What will be said of us? Did we let fear, anger and division destroy us? Or will we rise to the challenge of this moment, creating a healthier and stronger world for those who follow?

Someday, another pastor will walk the grounds of our cemetery and I hope he or she will be grateful for all we did to build a healthier, more just and more beautiful world. Perhaps they will look back and say this was our generation’s finest hour.

Award-winning columnist Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church.