You’ve probably heard more than once: “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This was first quoted by a philosopher named George Santayana, who I’d never even heard of until I googled the phrase one day.
Let me go on record here saying that I always hated history when I was in school. It was definitely one of my worst subjects (unfortunately there was more than one). As a matter of fact, I remember in my sophomore year of high school I got a big fat “D.” I was thankful I didn’t get an “F,” but mother didn’t agree with me.
Since becoming a Christian years ago I’ve been trying to get better at studying some aspects of history because I now realize it’s importance. But it’s hard, and sometimes I find myself thinking, “Why bother? What difference does it make anyway – that time has come and gone!”
But history is very important, isn’t it?
I really started thinking about this the other day when I remembered the twelve spies who had just returned from their mission to scope out the Promised Land before crossing on over (Numbers 13).
The consensus was that yes, indeed, it was a beautiful and prosperous land, but ten out of twelve of them were afraid to make the crossing, because it was full of giant enemies. Joshua and Caleb (the remaining two) disagreed – they trusted that God had delivered them so far, and that He would continue to do so. If they obeyed Him and did not rebel against Him (Numbers 14).
But of course the Israelites again began complaining about how they never should’ve left Egypt. How easily they forgot their history. They had been slaves in Egypt – often being treated brutally!
They also forgot their own personalized (and very miraculous) history lesson of how God had parted the Red Sea for them when they were being chased by Pharaoh’s army. God had allowed them to pass through safely to the other side, then He covered the Egyptians with the water so that they drowned (Exodus 14).
How on earth could they have forgotten all those incredible things so soon?
But don’t we do the same thing?
My husband loves to quote “those that don’t learn from history…” often, but the other day I nailed him on it. He had been having back problems on and off for years, and sometimes it causes him a lot of discomfort.
Just a couple months ago his back went out and he was in excruciating pain. I hadn’t seen him hurt like that for many years. Not even cortisone shots seemed to help. He was miserable.
Of course he admitted that he hadn’t been doing his back strengthening exercises faithfully like he should have been. Now he was having to pay the price.
Once he got stronger again, he started doing the exercises at least once a day. He said, “Never do I want to ever have to endure that kind of pain again!”
And he did real good – for about a month.
The other day he went to do a service project with some guys from our church, and later that evening his back was feeling a little tight.
“I’m okay,” he said, tentatively.
I reminded him about his back exercises as I hadn’t seen him do them for awhile. He said, “Yeah, I know.”
So I said, “Hon, what’s one of your very favorite sayings?”
He finally caught on as to where I was going: “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” We both started laughing – because I do exactly the same thing sometimes!
We just forget, don’t we? We start feeling good, and then the bad days seem to get erased from our memories. We start falling back into old habits, and then all of a sudden we realize, “Oh, oh…”
So we’re really no different than the Israelites, after all. Just like them, a lot of times we fit right into “always learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7 NIV).