Ever wondered why we celebrate certain holidays the way we do? In the spirit of St. Patrick’s day, I just brushed up on the real history of the man himself. I couldn’t find any connection with what I read and what our current festivities and celebrations reflect. All the parades, hats, horns, stickers, green tinted glasses and wigs. And where did green beer come from? Obviously a purely American invention; the Irish would never desecrate good ale with green dye. The more credible depictions of Saint Patrick actually show a white bearded man, too tall to be mistaken as a leprechaun. He’s not wearing green and there’s certainly no mention of pots of gold. He wasn’t even Irish! He was actually born in either England or Scotland and given the name Maewyn Succat. I don’t even know how to say Maewyn Succat but it sure doesn’t sound Irish. Anyway, where am I going with this? Somehow, just like in the case of Saint Nicholas, the celebration of Saint Patrick’s day is a far cry from remembering or celebrating anything close to historical truth. I mean how on earth did we get from a story of a man who was sold into slavery, transported to a foreign country, then later escaped by God’s providence, became a believer in Jesus Christ, lead back to the country where he was forced to be a slave, and then became a priest and lead a nation to a saving faith… to a celebration of leprechauns, pots of gold and green beer? God only knows. One thing’s for sure though, the original account is a far cry from what is focused on today.
Have you ever experienced this in your own life or observed this happen with someone close to you? John Gottman, a leading researcher in couples therapy, found that couples who are caught in a season of perpetual conflict will often “rewrite” their memories of their spouse so that it more closely resembles their current conclusions- that their spouse is simply mean, inconsiderate, self-centered (or something like that) and they have always been this way! Have they? Really? Maybe. But why would they have gotten married if this were “always true.” This begs some pretty deep questions:
What if our memory is not be as reliable as we’d like to think?
What if our conclusions about those around us are skewed?
What if our assumptions are based on false information, perceived similarities or lessons learned from experiences in the past, which may not in fact be wise to apply to a current situation?
And the larger question: If we can’t fully trust ourselves who can we trust? Who’s history is the real story? How can we know the truth? Well, at the risk of being predictable, God does. And possibly, in some situations, only God knows. Before you role your eyes thinking “Oh, here comes another rote Christian answer” think about this- who is the only one who knows you inside and out, who knows you better than you know yourself? God does. Who knows what you’ve been through, what has made you laugh from the gut, and who has been you weep uncontrollably? God does. Who knows about that situation you experienced years back, that still, if you let yourself think about it, will make your stomach twist into knots? God does. Who knows the best parts about you, what talents and gifts and special abilities you’ve been given? Who knows how lovely you are, what incredible things you can accomplish, how much joy you were designed and given then ability to give to others? Your heavenly Father does. He does, because He made you and He is with you.
As for the story of St. Patrick, the consequences for believing something that isn’t true aren’t necessarily that severe. You may end up ruining a perfectly good pint of beer with some nasty green food coloring, or end up looking like a dork for a day wearing that green, sparkly top hat and those ridiculous shamrock glasses. But this is all in good fun. Believing a lie about yourself or those around, on the other hand, may have more tragic consequences. There are a lot of voices in this world that try to get us to listen and believe. God asks us to listen to Him and believe in Him above all else.
Will you believe Him…. When he says you are forgiven? When He says that he created you in the womb with love and purpose, and that he has a plan for your life that is part of his larger eternal plan? When He simply says that He loves you? That you are valuable? Will you choose to believe Him?
Have fun and enjoy life, even if that includes expressing the nuttier side of your humanness! But don’t be led astray by the lies and leprechauns of this world or those that are in your head. Go to the one who knows the truth about you and the life He has given you.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”–Jesus