Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
~ Deuteronomy 4:9 ~
Today is 9/11. To Americans, this was the start of the war on terror. To most Millennials, this marked one of the greatest, formative changes that they would experience in their lives. To the world, well, I’m not sure how much it affected them. I was in America, watching our little television in our basement with my mother and little brother, later watching my parents hug and cry and us trying to comfort them. I did not understand then what historic event had happened. Things certainly changed. Police and military awareness was heightened, relations with our neighbors became more strained, travel become more complex, and so much more. I cannot know how much things changed.
I began teaching a history course at my Church’s Wednesday night study last week. The kids I teach are between the ages of 9 and 12. We are still pretty early in time; we’re only at the Rebellion-Flood. But I realized that for most of this kids, the most formative, communal events in their lives have probably been the current and previous U.S. Administrations. They probably do not watch the news. They know almost nothing about history. Explaining to them that the oldest person at our church (he’s 96) didn’t have a tv or cell phone or computer blew their minds. Telling them the number of wars we went through during that time was also intriguing to them. But these kids have always known war, though like myself, in a distant manner. How can I explain to them the significance of 9/11 tomorrow?
That Tuesday morning shook the world. It shook my world. But 9/11 is not the most important event that happened in history. How do I explain to this children that history is magnificent, important, impactful? How do I explain all of world history, from Creation to the present, lead to who they are today? How do I explain the Revolution, the age of discovery, the Magna Charta, Charlemagne, the Romans, Christianity, the Persians, Asia, Israel, Mesopotamia, Babel, the Flood, and Creation is the history of them, especially when no one has taught them that? How do I show how world history is the only history you can really teach to understand the present when they don’t even know what happened 17 years ago?
The verse above from Deuteronomy is God speaking to the Israelites about their history. God told the Israelites to teach their children and grandchildren about all that had happened to them: the exodus, the conquest, Abraham, and going back to creation. Why? So that this history – their history – would not fade from their minds. Scripture speaks on remembering history and valuing learning quite frequently. History and learning is important, and starting with God is the only way to do it (Prov. 1:7). Why is it so important? Because if the next generation forgets, they will forget who brought them there, which is exactly what happened in ancient Israel. History is the story that lead us to today. We were lead here by God.
God has brought us thus far. He brought us through 9/11. He brought us through two World Wars. He brought us through changing governments, falling empires, persecution, floods, and everything that happens seemingly only to us. We teach history not only to know but to remember all that God has done for us, to see how everything is connected, how everything points to God’s hand.
I doubt 9/11 will be soon forgotten in the minds of Americans. I would think the same is true for the impactful events unique to each people around the world. My prayer is that we remember to teach our children, the next generation, what happened before them. They are going to shape the future and they are going to experience things that came from something that started long before them. They need to know what happened in our lives and what happened before us. They don’t know, and they need a teacher. So I will teach my class and will, Lord willing, teach my own children one day. Let us not forget the days that are past, no matter how ugly, frightening, shameful, or wonderful they are. Let us not forget but remember and teach the next generation lest this history fade from our minds.
Blessings to you and yours,