“Thou shalt make history come out right.”

Sometimes the reading I do for class seems pretty obscure and distant from the kind of things I’m interested in. But every once in a while something leaps off the page at you and makes the interminable hours of frustration worth it.

Here’s what I found recently while reading the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder for ethics:

‘Thou shalt make history come out right,’ is so deeply founded in our culture that we cannot even perceive that it might be in need of verification.

It reminded me of the experience I had with Nolizwi, one of my students in South Africa. I had a great plan to solve all the problems in her life and we put it into action and it all came crashing down on our shoulders. Here’s what I concluded then:

All my energy and effort these last few months has amounted to nothing except heartache and trouble for Nolizwi. It’s a clear example of how one’s best efforts and intentions to help – when mediated through cultural and language barriers – can actually end up doing more harm than good. It’s an example of how misplaced people’s expectations are when they expect me to solve their problems for them. I can’t do it. And it’s not my job! I’ve found myself asking if Nolizwi wouldn’t have been better off if I had just stayed out of her life altogether.

Ultimately, it is not us who makes “history come out right” but God. That’s a counter-cultural idea in this day and age but always one worth remembering.

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