It was 2009, and I was with a group of musicians, pastors, and authors traveling in Italy, ministering in churches and other venues in worship and music. We took a day to sight-see and visit Pompeii, the ancient city near Naples that was completely buried in ash when the volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, blew in 79 A.D., burying both the landscape and the people. The now excavated area reveals stories and wonder, tragedy and beauty. Pompeii left evidence of its spiritual climate and morality in its art and culture. There were things to cringe at and things to enjoy. Like many cultures before it, it had a story to tell.
We toured the ruins of homes, temples, courtyards, and gardens. We visited the glass protected forms of people buried in ash, who became molded by the eruption into permanent statues that were hollowed as they decomposed. It was both horrific, and sobering. For me it was a lot to take in.
After a few hours of hiking around and viewing the remains of this civilization, I rested my elbows on a stone wall overlooking a garden area and began to process. One of my team members came over to ask me what I was thinking, and the thoughts spilled out in a jumbled heap. Those thoughts are what fuels this blog today and they begin like this:
I wonder if the woman who lived in this house ever thought that almost two thousand years later, another woman from the other side of the world would be standing in her house and looking at the painting on her wall? When she or her husband decided on that color of red to create the decorative stamp-like trim around their ceiling, was it their favorite color? Or the the most available color? When they inlaid the mosaic patterns into the floors and doorsteps of their homes, did they ever imagine that Americans would be stepping on and around them in the year 2009?
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says:
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Because God has set eternity in my heart, and the realization that my actions affect the lives of others around me, my thoughts travel deeper than the colors on the wall. I wrestle with the fact that everything I do is recorded in time. Even if I never write it down, or photograph the moment, it is made a permanent record that God alone controls, and can be excavated at any time when He is ready to reveal it. Every action has a consequence. Every action has an opportunity to be seen, and if not now, years down the road. Like Pompeii, my life tells a story. For those of you who read my blog “Time and Eternity” and possibly watched the video attached, you will see some of the reasons for the words I am typing.
There is no action that you or I perform that does not have an effect on another. Even the color of our walls or the state of our spiritual lives will have an effect on someone–somewhere, somehow. There are no “personal decisions” or “personal faiths” that affect only us, even though we make many decisions on our own with the convictions and understanding we currently possess. Our actions constantly set something into motion.
We cannot reverse time, or take back things we have said or done. We can repaint walls, or move to new cities, renovate homes, and demolish buildings, but the records of our actions remain unchangeable outside of the mercy of God and His ability to wipe away our sins.
I painted two walls in my house deep purple. I like the color very much. As I rolled the color on, I thought about Pompeii. I thought about my choices, and their choices. I pondered whether or not my home would ever be visited in the future by someone from another culture. Would they see my purple wall and wonder why I chose that color, or why my home was laid out the way it was with a library in the dining room? Would they find my photographs, or journals, and peer into my life? What would they find? What would they contemplate?
For many reasons God keeps a record of our lives and actions. One thing I know is that because there is a historical record of lives lived before me, I have an opportunity to reflect on history, then consider my life, my actions, my future, and call out to God to direct my path and the paths of the ones He has entrusted to me. History is another form of God’s grace extended to me. As Edmund Burke said: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”