Does it matter where you were born, the place, and time in history? Time, location, and culture affect the way we view things and how we think. We often make assumptions based on our values shaped by that time and place and our groups’ influences. It can have a lasting impact on your life, where you were born, also the time slot in history.
The prophecy of where Christ would be born was made centuries before. Messiah would be born in Bethlehem in Judea, not in Jerusalem or even Nazareth, his parents’ hometown. His birth centuries later was a turning point in history, with our calendar becoming AD and not BC. The prophets inspired by the Holy Spirit thought it necessary to record this in Scripture so that people could pinpoint that moment and KNOW that Jesus was the Messiah.
Other important people were born into history who took their place as people who changed society, transforming it through their life and work. One of these was William Wilberforce, who stood alone at times in the British Parliament advocating abolishing slavery. Yet his stand was the beginning of the dismantling of slavery as it was then. Another reformer born in that era was John Howard, who reformed the British prison system after being imprisoned in a French prison. His personal experience drove him to advocate for humanitarian reforms of the British prison system. Each century has had people who were critical catalysts for change in their lifetimes.
Each century has had people who were critical catalysts for change in their lifetimes.
Two people born into modern history have also influenced society and brought about changes to unjust systems. Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela both fought for and brought about changes in the laws governing racial injustice in their lifetimes. Others were born into time slots in history that brought about chaos and suffering for people during their time and position in history, like Napoleon and Adolf Hitler. Leaders who held the upper hand often created a time of trials and suffering for another group of people that they may not even have known or cared less.
Two such people influenced the times I was born into, Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister, and Ian Smith, a farmer. Ian Smith became Prime Minister of Rhodesia and declared Unilateral Independence in 1965. At stake was a small landlocked country in the heart of Africa, founded by Cecil John Rhodes in 1885, only sixty years before I was born. Part of the colonial push into Africa by the British Empire during the Scramble for Africa. The European nations were greedy for Africa’s vast mineral wealth and resources to rebuild their economies after wars and a long depression. These colonies were ideal places to send the unemployed population and explorers who would, in turn, remit valuable resources back to their home countries. Initially, the country was under the British South Africa Company’s occupation. It became the self-governing British Crown Colony of Southern Rhodesia in 1923, just twenty-three years before I was born.
Both sets of my grandparents ended up in Rhodesia: my mother’s father, an engineer, after the First World War, and my father’s parents, South African farmers who wanted a new life after the Boer War, WW1, and personal farming failures. My parents met and married in 1945, just after the end of WW2. This vignette sets the stage for the time and place in history I was born into the following year.
A limited education system had been put in place in the few towns by the time I was due to go to school. ‘School on the Air’ was broadcast over the local radio station, with study material sent through the post and once a term visit to the town to meet the Headmistress, to meet the needs of children further afield. It was a Homeschooling system for most children who had access to the radio. Not unlike today, when children are educated at home through the internet, those who do not have access are disadvantaged. There was no socialization for children, and being the eldest, no friends for play. The arrival of next-door neighbors with school-going children facilitated me going to school in town for a year as our parents could do lift share to get us to and from school. I did not know how to socialize with other children but having a neighbor my age helped me settle down, and we become lifelong friends. Another influence was my parent’s fundamentalist church, giving me a skewed view of God and Christianity.
Our education was always in the pioneering stage, as we moved to a new school being created the following year in our area. The school started in a church hall on the bare concrete floors, a class in each corner of the hall. The Headmaster, a Welshman, his wife, and a Scottish lady were our teachers. By the time the school building was ready the following year, we were behind in English and Mathematics. After we moved into the new school building, the Headmaster continued to teach our class and do his job as Headmaster at the same time. He told us to go to the stockroom, take out a book, and sit under the trees to read! We spent most of our Primary School years reading books under the trees. By the time we got to high school, we were very well-read but not necessarily educated in grammar or mathematics matters.
My formative years were the years that the Winds of Change were blowing through Africa, with political unrest in the former colonies. I was taught to view the world through this lens.
Through travel and living in other countries, and meeting people of different races, cultures, and languages, I learned there were so many ways to look at social issues applicable to their time and history situation. I have learned to question a lot of the assumptions and ideas that I had been taught. I attended churches with different approaches to God and Christianity. I allowed God to show me who He was so that my experience could align with what the psalmist says “God alone provides security, safety and prosperity” Ps 147:13-14. My image of God no longer mirrored the paternal teachings of fundamentalism.
I allowed God to show me who He was so that my experience could align with what the psalmist says “God alone provides security, safety and prosperity” Ps 147:13-14. My image of God no longer mirrored the paternal teachings of fundamentalism.
We may not make the impact that great men like Wilberforce and Nelson Mandela made during our lifetime, but there is a reason that we were placed in this time in history and born to our parents in the place we were. Like Paul mentions in Acts 13:36, “after David had served his generation according to the will of God, he died…..” How can we best serve our generation? For me, that is to write and paint, sharing the compassionate, caring heart of God, through nature, through contemplative prayer and meditations. I hope I can inspire others in their life’s journey through my journey and what is required to get to this place of respite.
How can we best serve our generation?