I was recently chatting to someone in my family about various things, and in the course of the conversation they mentioned a singer from the 1950’s that they remembered their parents listening to. Now, I forget who the singer was, but when I said I hadn’t heard of them, I got the reply, “Oh well you wouldn’t, it was before your time!”
I’ve heard this phrase used many times, and every time it amuses and confuses me in more or less equal measure. I was born in 1971, but the very strange thing is, and you won’t believe this, is that I’ve heard of World War II, and Napoleon and the Vikings. I wasn’t around for any of them. Even the Tudors and Shakespeare, the Crusades and Plato come to mind! Am I a Time Lord?
I definately was not there for any of these historical events, but how come I know a little bit about each of them? Weird eh? Especially since almost every week I stand up and teach or preach about Jesus who lived 2000 years ago by his incarnation as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. That was definately before my time!
Anyway, just some thoughts about the funny things we say. Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if everyone only knew anything from the time between their own birth and death? Memory is a funny and wonderful thing, and we are limited, finite and contingent creatures made in the image of God. It is nevertheless true that historical amnesia is a factor in why the majority Western World is tying itself up in knots over identity, race and sexuality issues. When we do not know our history, we really are doomed to repeat it, (Edmund Burke).
And yet it is this God that says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1:5). So, God saw me before my time, and still knew me. We have now entered the realm of “things too wonderful for me” (Psalm 139:6). All of this before my time, but held and known in the eternity of God.