My classics reading group has moved on to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I’m stunned by the writing. In chapter 9, people have to decide what to leave behind as they head toward California from Dust Bowl Oklahoma. They say, “How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?”

In times of rapid change we need to stay connected to the past. It helps us know who we are. This doesn’t mean we cling to it, desperately wanting everything to stay the same. Rather, we stay grounded in the story, as a way to affirm our identity as we we move into the future.

The Dust Bowl refugees had to make painful choices about what to leave and what to carry: “Here’s an old-time hat. These feathers–never got to use them. No, there isn’t room.” Sometimes we do, too, at church. This cherished program. This building. This music. But when we make those choices with a deep respect for past, recognizing that our identity is profoundly connected with those who went before, we’ll be better prepared for the future..

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