“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” It’s a phrase coined by a brilliant philosopher named George Santanaya. While he was no doubt thinking of the past in terms of history on the world stage, this can also apply to us on an individual level. Let me explain what I mean.
I had the pleasure of spending the past week back in my home state of West Virginia. During that time, I realized how fortunate I was. I’ve been very blessed to have my parents as long as I have; my parents had me later in life. I’m currently 44, and my mom and dad are 82 and 84 respectively. Many of my friends have lost at least one parent, so to still have them is an honor indeed. In having them, I find myself compelled to glean as much from them as I possibly can.
While I was with them, I recalled a Bible verse from Deuteronomy 32:7 that states, “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.”
There’s some commands in this verse, to “remember,” “consider” and “ask.” More specifically, they were consider the generations that had come before them, and ask their fathers and elders.
There was a specific reason that this command was given. It was addressed to the ancient nation of Israel. This was a group that God had specifically selected. A group whom God had called out and made His own. Through them, He would show the world that He was a benevolent and loving God who is, “perfect, reliable, just and upright.” (Deut. 32:4) Unfortunately the nation — not unlike ourselves — suffered from some temporary amnesia. Instead of obeying this verse, they forgot these truths about their God. Instead of following Him and obeying His commandments, they ended up turning to other gods. The result was tragic, and ultimately they ended up losing all the land God had given them.
There was an alternative that they could’ve taken advantage of, to learn from those who would’ve reminded them of the steadfast goodness of their God. Had they sought counsel from their forebears, their fathers and their elders, much pain and loss could have been avoided.
We have this opportunity today. For those of us who have access to someone more seasoned in life, we can also ask “our fathers and elders.” The aged people in our communities can be a fountainhead of wisdom and provide us with much needed perspective that goes beyond our limited years.
So have you found yourself at a place in life you’ve never been to before? Are you wondering what you should do? Why not seek out the advice of someone who has been down that path; they may provide you with some insights that you would’ve otherwise never considered.
Chad Cowan is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Sheridan and a member of Pastors United in Christ.