|Apparently, we have moved on from Black History Month to Women’s History Month. Something about the word “history” repels me, even as I find myself appalled by how little I (we?) know. Dynamic teachers abound, and I am friends with some of the best. Sadly, my classroom history experience neither excited me nor taught what I am now hungry to learn.|
Our relationship with the failures and triumphs of our past is complicated. Reading in Daniel yesterday, I was impressed by his willingness to prayerfully own his nation’s history in order to seek a better future.
Lord, we are ashamed—we, our kings, our leaders, and our parents who sinned against you. Compassion and deep forgiveness belong to my Lord, our God, because we rebelled against him. Daniel 9:8-9 (CEB)
Daniel himself was devout from his youth- declining the unkosher food of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, interpreting dreams and writings on the wall, praying three times a day (which got him thrown into the lions’ den.) But in his prayer for Jerusalem’s restoration, he embraces the guilt of the past as his own in order to plead for his people.
My Lord, please! In line with your many righteous acts, please turn your raging anger from Jerusalem, which is your city, your own holy mountain. Because of our sins and the wrongdoing of our parents, both Jerusalem and your people have become a disgrace to all our neighbors. Dan. 9:16 (CEB)
I wonder if we feel- and if we can own- how the wrongdoing of God’s people has made us a disgrace to our neighbors. Does Daniel’s personal righteousness free him to take on collective responsibility in order to pray for forgiveness? Do we have freedom granted by Jesus’ righteousness that empowers us to pray for healing from the sins of the past?
As I reach out to African-American leaders in our community for our series on reparations, I am conscious of feeling how white Christians have been a disgrace to our neighbors. But I am greeted with warmth. Eagerness to come alongside. I am encouraged and hopeful. Daniel’s prayer was effective; God heard and responded.
While I was still speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sins of my people Israel—while I was still praying my prayer for help to the Lord my God about my God’s holy mountain— the man Gabriel approached me…
“Daniel, here’s why I’ve come: to give you insight and understanding. When you began making your requests, a word went out, and I’ve come to tell it to you because you are greatly treasured. Dan. 9:20-23a (CEB)
Can we hear those words today? That we will be given insight and understanding. Because you are greatly treasured. The journey ahead will be messy and long, as the angel described to Daniel. But we can be encouraged that as we learn and own our history, God hears our prayers. God desires to restore righteousness for the sake of God’s own name. May we be part of the prayer that brings it to pass.