28 October 2021

Looking Back to Build Forward

History is a fascinating subject. It is made up of the stories we tell about our past and present.  It can be told from differing perspectives depending on who is telling the story because it is influenced by the ‘lens’ of the narrator. We often tell and hear stories from our own vantage point and, as a result, there is often a ‘history’ within the history.

As a young girl in high school in Zambia, I had an insatiable desire for consuming information on places and people and how they came to be. Hence subjects like history, geography, biology, etc. always captured my attention. Learning about all these variants (excuse the pun) of the study of human life was interesting. My history and geography teachers, particularly, had the knack of presenting information engagingly and imaginatively such that, in some instances, I felt like I had been transported back in time. To this day I still think I have been to Vancouver Island in Canada and walked beneath its massive ancient trees!

But regardless of how great my teachers and books were at communicating, I still had the sense of peering through a looking glass. And maybe there was some fun in that because it allowed my active imagination to run riot while filling in the gaps. On the other hand, that often resulted in a slightly different version of history. 

Here’s what I know; as fascinating as it is to acquaint myself with the past, warts and all, I/we cannot change it.  It has been lived by those that have gone before us. Some of it is good, some of it is bad but it is what it is – for them.

However, for us, it is not yet ‘what it is.’  We are in the process of writing our history and have the advantage of ‘hindsight is a great teacher’. We can ‘stand on the shoulders’ of our past and build even better, or where needed, build anew.

So, as we write our ‘history’, I am hoping and praying that we are gleaning wisdom from the past so we can write even better stories in community with the people God has put in our lives. I think of some of that simple but enriching ‘history’ that has already been written; like the one with our elderly next-door neighbours when we moved into our current home and the stories we told as we chatted back and forth across the garden fence. Or our church family as we have walked through life together in the many joys and sorrows. Or my work family as we serve our young people and each other.

But I would be doing true history a disservice if I didn’t acknowledge those encounters that have left me, and others, ‘bruised.’ There have been many, it is the nature of life, but I would much rather concentrate my gaze on the myriads of humans in my life (and your life) who are good – as good as any of us humans can ever be.

I still haven’t lost my fascination with ‘history’, its plots and nuances are too captivating to abandon, but the best ‘history’ is the one I am living now. The people and places of this ‘history’ are interwoven in the tapestry of my life and, I hope that those that read it, especially my grandchildren and their children’s children, etc. will find something good to build on and if not, learn from it and build a better story!

Mwaka Chulu – Rent Coordinator and Organisational Compliance at YMCA Exeter


“Registers of divine kindness ought to be made and preserved. We write down in history the calamities of nations—wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes are recorded; how much rather then should we set up memorials of the Lord’s loving-kindness!… The praise of God should be the great object of all that we do, and to secure him a revenue of glory both from the present and the future is the noblest aim of intelligent beings.”[1]

[1] SPURGEON, C. H., & CLARKE, R. H. (1997). The treasury of David: Spurgeon’s great commentary on Psalms. Nashville, T. Nelson Publishers. Extracted from https://www.gracegems.org/Spurgeon/102.htm. Last accessed on 27/10/2021