Fiddler on the Roof

That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you! –2 Timothy 1:5 The Message

Ever wonder why you wake up with certain things running through your mind? I mean, things you haven’t been thinking about or have no apparent connection with the current status of your life.

The subconscious mind is a powerful yet subtle thing. There is a connection.

One morning, for example, I awoke with the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof playing in the half-awake alcoves of my brain. As I lay there, I sang the words to myself.

Why did my subconscious pull this out of the recesses of my memory?

Maybe because I’m in the process of decluttering my house, and decluttering has a way of stirring up memories – memories that take me back through my life. I remembered the traditions of my family, of Dean’s family, and how Dean and I started family traditions of our own.

Fiddler on the Roof is about tradition, the traditions that enabled Tevye and his family to survive the tumultuous times in their Russian village prior to the Revolution of 1905.

“You might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck,” says Tevye. “And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!”

How important is tradition in today’s world of technology and high speed everything?

Tradition, first of all, gives us a sense of identity. Traditions are about more than ourselves. They are about our heritage, where we came from. There’s so much hype these days about tracing our roots, getting our DNA tested. But family traditions can help to provide the very thing those tests provide: a sense of where you came from – and why you are the way you are. And that sense of identity builds strong inter-generational family relationships. Listen carefully, then, to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s stories. They are a part of you.

Second, tradition gives us a sense of belonging. We are not alone in this big, wide, often cold world. We are a part of something – a family, a church, a community. Something bigger than ourselves.

Third, tradition gives a sense of stability, providing balance in a shaky, unstable world. It grounds us and roots us in the familiar. Life, after all, is as uncertain now as it was 113 years ago. Don’t we all find comfort and security in the familiar?

Finally, tradition gives us a sense of continuity. Stories passed down from generation to generation give a glimpse of our ancestors. Like a baton in a runner’s hands gets passed on to the next runner, so life goes on, “one season following another, laden with happiness and tears.”

How important are traditions?

Just look at the Old Testament. The traditions God established for His people – and commanded them to continue – gave the Hebrews a sense of identity, belonging, stability, and continuity. Not only did these traditions remind them of who they were, but Whose they were. They connected them with a God who redeemed them out of His mercy, grace, and love.

So it is today. I am so grateful for the traditions of faith passed on to me by my parents. And I pray I’ve passed traditions of faith on to my children and grandchildren. More than anything I yearn for them to see beyond the ritual to the essence of what tradition is all about.

How important are traditions?

In the words of Tevye, “Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as . . . as . . . as a fiddler on the roof.”

What traditions give your life balance and stability? Are you passing them along to the next generation?

Thank you, Lord, for the traditions of faith that give my life stability in an unstable world. Amen.

 © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Boundaries and Balance, Part 4: What Are You Walling In or Walling Out?


The Great Wall of China
Image in public domain

You are a shield around me, O LORD. —Psalm 3:3 NIV

In Old Testament times, walls surrounded cities, walls so thick houses were built into them. Today, instead of walls, we trust our security to the armed forces, police, and other groups created for our protection.

But walls still exist. The Great Wall of China, for instance, was constructed in ancient times to protect the country from invasions and raids from nomadic groups to the north. Today the sadly neglected wall is little more than a tourist attraction.

When it was built, however, China was not a communist nation, and the wall was not meant to keep citizens in, like the Berlin Wall.

Which brings me back to Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” and the line, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out.”

We all build walls around us, don’t we? Invisible walls to wall out the unwanted and to wall in that which we want to protect.

First, let’s look at what we wall out.

I, for one, wall out toxic people—people whose behavior has a noxious effect on me, on my emotions, on my thinking, and consequently on my behavior. They spew their poison, and, like yeast, it permeates every aspect of my life if I let it.

I can’t change these individuals, even if I tried. But I can pray for them. I can’t love them on my own, but I can ask God to love them through me.

But that doesn’t mean I have to spend time with them. After all, I’m only human. That’s why I have to wall them out. So their poison doesn’t affect me and those I love.

What other influences must I wall out? The godless and corrupt. Negative thinking. Negative speech. Anything that tears down and doesn’t build up. That which discourages me, robs me of hope, siphons love, and undermines my faith. That which would distract and derail me from God’s purpose for me.

What are we walling in?

That which we want to protect—our minds, our hearts, our spirits.

There’s so much out there bent only to destroy. Remember what Jesus, the Good Shepherd who encloses His fold in a sheep pen, said? “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Walling in doesn’t mean you have a closed mind but that you’re protecting it from corrupting influences (Philippians 4:8–9, Romans 12:2).

It doesn’t mean that you become afraid to love, thinking that will protect your heart, but that you ask God to love others through you. Not your love, then, but His.

Walling in your spirit doesn’t mean you have a blind faith, but with single-minded devotion and commitment to God and His Word, you’re protecting the garden of your faith so it can grow to full maturity and produce an abundant harvest.

Take a close look at your life.

What are you walling in and walling out?

Lord God, be the wall around me. Whatever You allow in, I know You have a purpose for it. Help me to live my life in Your sheep pen and trust my Shepherd. Amen.

Read and meditate on Matthew 13:33 and John 10:1–10

A good article to read about toxic people and their dangerous influence is “What’s a Toxic Person & How Do you deal with One?” by Margarita Tartakovsky, MS, associate editor of
World of Psychology blog sponsored by Psych Central.