We are holding history. That is our theme in church this month. It also feels like the subtext of this time in my life. As my brother and I do the physical and emotional work of moving our parents out of their home of 60 plus years, the reality that we are holding history is palpable. It is the history of a marriage and a family. It is a time capsule of an era and a geography. It is the intersection of our father’s family and our mother’s, evidenced by photos and keepsakes. It is part of the story of each of our becoming.

From tenderest years, most of us are guided to learn history by cultivating an ability to recite the significant events of a people, a place or a time. Holding history is different. Listing events is insufficient. Holding history invites us to bear witness. To let the story sit in you and sift through you until your heart is open to a richer understanding.

For a religion like ours which describes itself as a living tradition, this is an important practice. We are not just inheritors of history, we are shaped by it while leaning into it to evolve into a more worthy future.

By holding history, we are offering it a space that is open and discerning. Rather than arrogantly looking in the rearview mirror assuming we all there is to know about the past. We pause and invite it to teach us anew.

This is distinctly countercultural in this time when we debate which parts of our collective history can be told. Certain events shouldn’t be told because they undermine our self-image. Indeed, our present moral challenge is whether we will continue to indulge our impulse to white-wash (double-meaning intended) the unspoken realities of our past so that we can maintain an illusion of purity and wholeness, or whether we hold the fullness of our history with its blessings and burdens.

In the holding, we face what is and what was. We see the light and examine the shadows. We let go of the nice stories, in favor of a more wholesome understanding that opens our hearts and shapes us in courage and truth. That is the wonderful gift of claiming our shadows. It is too easy to deny the dark places within us individually and collectively. Sadly, that denial causes our shadows to gain power by becoming the source of our shame. Yet, when when light and shadow are witnessed as part of the same story, healing is possible. May it be so.