Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Lesson Within A History Lesson

"may the Lord give you wisdom
   and understanding"
1 Chronicles 22:12

A few weeks ago, I read an article about Horatio Nelson, the British naval hero.  But it wasn't just an article about his many and impressive victories at sea.  Have you ever read something that has been written to correct something else, and you were kinda confused, because you had never read the original, incorrect version?  That's what happened to me as I read this article.

I know the highlights of Nelson's life, and I've seen the statue in Trafalgar Square, in London.  But I really didn't know anything about his personal life.  He was married to Frances "Fanny" nee Nisbet in 1787, and he remained married until his death in the Battle of Trafalgar, in 1805.

But eleven years after his wedding, he began an affair with a woman named Emma Hamilton, and that relationship, too, lasted until his death.

I don't think that it's a very big secret that he was having an affair; nor was it at the time.  I suppose in the eyes of the British it doesn't take away from his naval heroics, which are undeniable.  And I suppose there are many who chalk such indiscretions up to "boys will be boys" or something like that.  Which is a terrible excuse, but we won't go into that.

But apparently the other reason why his lack of marital integrity was forgiven was that his wife was widely seen as being at fault for the affair.  Says author Colin White:  "Frances Nelson almost without exception was demonized for the breakdown of the marriage.  She was said to be incompatible with him:  cold, whining..."

Not that that's an excuse, but we won't go into that.

At any rate, this has been the prevailing view of Lady Nelson, until recently.  In 2002, several dozen letters were discovered in a private collection.  They were letters from Frances, Emma, and Nelson to a friend of Nelson's, Alexander Davison.  Frances felt Davison was a confidant, and so she felt free to express her feelings of love for her husband, and her concern for his reputation, despite his infidelity.

Of course, I haven't read the letters, but apparently the more one reads of Frances' heart, the more one can appreciate her innocence, and her forgiving heart.  And though Fanny Nelson's reputation did not suffer during her life ~ she continued to be accepted in "polite society" despite her husband's well-known infidelity ~ the opinions formed of her after her death might have been different if people had known more about her feelings, her actions, and her intentions.

As I say, it was an article that sought to change some people's opinions of Fanny Nelson, but as I had no opinion of her to begin with, I came at it from a slightly different place.  What stuck out to me was the idea of finding something out later.  Of learning something, but not having all the facts, and then how it changes things when you learn them later.

This intrigues me about the Bible, too.  Though we can learn from any reading of the Bible, the details matter.  The details can give us more.  Knowing about the church in Galatia will help us understand why Paul wrote what he did to them.  Knowing how Jacob obtained Esau's birthright will help us understand the animosity in later interactions between them.   Knowing chronology and geography and history will round out the lessons we learn in Scripture.

For instance, read Job 38:22-23, in which God says to Job, "Have you seen the treasury of hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?"

Now read Joshua 10:11 ~ "It happened, as the men of Gilgal fled before Israel... that the Lord cast down large hailstones from heaven... There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword."

It opens up Scripture to see how God brought to reality what He said He would.  Or see how one section illustrates another.  It's about how much there is to understand about a given situation, and how much more there is to know.

Seek.  Ask.  Knock.  

~ "He opened their understanding,
that they might comprehend the Scriptures" ~
Luke 24:45

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