Although it’s a bit old now, you may remember the Delirious? song “I’m gonna be a history maker in this land…” I’ve certainly belted it out in the past. It gives expression to a passion to live a life of significance and impact for God to our generation and the ones to come.
If our passion is to be a history-maker, and if the goal is both desirable and achievable, then I think it might be worthwhile to spend a moment reflecting on the actual nature of History itself – perhaps we can gain some insight into the aspiration we set before ourselves.
Firstly, History is not the Past. On the face of it, this seems counter-intuitive. All those hours spent in history classes at school, memorising the dates and details of past events, suggest to us that History is merely an encyclopaedia of the past. But let’s pause for a moment and consider… what you had for breakfast this morning is something that happened in the past, but only your most devoted friend (or maybe your doctor) would consider it worthy of historical enquiry. No, History is not the past; History is what we say about the past. Most things that happened in the past (like breakfasts) are trivial, mundane and not worth saying anything about. However, there are those truly significant people and events in the past that have given shape to the present. They are the pivots around which the course of the future turned. These are the stuff of genuine history, about which much can, has been and will be said.
This gives would-be history makers their first bit of guidance. To be a history-maker – live a life of significance and impact, a life worth talking about. Decide to live above or outside the ordinary, one that stands out from the general banality of the world around us and has an impact upon the direction of the future.
Secondly, History involves Change. Some historians identify God’s call through Moses to Pharaoh to “Let my people go” as the start of history. Prior to this, human society had remained static and unchanged for millennia. The minority elite classes controlled all the power, wealth and means of production and ruled over and exploited an oppressed majority. But with God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the ancient order of things was turned upside down. A tyrant was overthrown, a nation was born and a new way of being a people came into existence. This is an event worthy of the historian’s study. In fact, all history-making people and events are historical because they were moments or agents of change. The world was different because of them.
Herein is the second piece of guidance for history-makers – produce change. If, as Christians, all we do is fall into step with the normal patterns and rhythms of secular or even Christian living, then our lives won’t rise above the great mass of insignificant sameness that makes up the bulk of the human story. Rather, let us challenge the status quo. Let us discover or invent new ways of approaching life, church and Kingdom. Let’s mould and shape a revolutionary, new way of engaging with human society. Then we’ll be making history.
Thirdly, History is written after the event and by others. Despite our desire to live a life that registers in the annals of History, the truth of the matter is that it won’t be up to us determine whether we succeeded. That judgment will be made by others, and probably long after we’re gone. It will be future generations who will make the final decision regarding which people and events of past genuinely shaped the way they live their lives, not us.
Therefore, to make history – live for others. As Paul said to the Corinthians “You yourselves are our letter … known and read by everyone.” (2 Cor 3:2). If I live my life with the aim of making my life register in history, I’ll probably fail for it is ultimately a self-serving agenda. However, if I live for others, then the impact of my life will continue to be felt by them long after my story reaches its conclusion.
Lastly, one of the topics historians and philosophers have debated over the centuries is whether History has a goal. One side of the argument says that History is neither pre-determined nor guided by any force or agenda. For them the future is completely open and will be what human civilisation makes it. On the other side are those who detect in the ebb and flow of History some invisible, providential hand that manoeuvres the human story toward some fore-ordained goal or conclusion. As Christians I think we can say that both have truth but miss the truth. The bible tells us that God Himself is the Alpha and Omega (Rev 21:6), the origin and destination of not just human history but the whole cosmos. In a similar vein, Paul looks forward to the time when all things will be summed up in Christ (Eph 1:10). There is weight, then, in the old saying “History is His-Story.”
The past is littered with the statues, buildings and exploits of men who tried to make their mark upon History in an often vain attempt to outlive their own mortality. Far be it from us to seek a similar goal through “Christian” means. Instead, our History must be found and anchored in His Story. After all, it is only through seeking the pre-eminence of His Name, His kingdom and His story, that our story has lasting significance anyway.
(Hillsong College Lecturer)