MY NOW 33-YEAR-OLD-SON was still riding in a toddler backpack when I first laid eyes on the Miller Farmstead at Roan Mountain, Tennessee. My wife, son, and I were spending a badly needed weekend, camping in the mountains. At the time, I was working way too many hours each week at an Atlanta advertising agency, and the contrast between the pastoral scene nestled in a hollow of the Appalachian Mountains and my whirlwind urban life blew my mind.
A New, Old Way of Life
The mountain farm reflected a nineteenth-century American family tradition I wanted.
Studying the Miller home, barn, and outbuildings from the ridge galvanized an assortment of thoughts, feelings, and ambitions that had been stirring in me. Although I didn’t—and still don’t—aspire to be a farmer, per se, the image of the family farm showed me what I wanted in life. And it was very different from the way I had been brought up and was living at that point.
I saw a setting in which the family worked together to create a productive life. Dad didn’t head out the door each day to a job somewhere else. When Miller stepped off his front porch, it was to go just outside and tend the farm. Even if his kids didn’t work right beside him each day, they understood what “Daddy does for a living.”
I, on the other hand, was on a track to spend my life—as had my father—doing an honorable job somewhere other than at home and one that was fairly un-explainable to my children.
Why, I wondered, can’t work and family life be more integrated—even for me in late-twentieth century America?
Desiring a life consistent with the Millers meant I was seeking a return to the tradition of earlier family life.
Gaining Life through Lost Traditions
Much of society in the past century has made serious work of abandoning traditions of all kinds. Pride in our progressive, new ways of thinking predisposes many people to assume that traditions of any kind are bad. Yet, to believe that all the centuries of human history have little or no wisdom to offer is a fairly arrogant view. In many areas, the past can teach us a great deal about what we yearn for in life.
Which means that now, finding value in a tradition that has gone before and aspiring to connect with it can provide a very Different way to live.
Traditions often reflect a significant value we have parted company with to our detriment, and going against the grain of modern anti-traditionalism can create an exciting new frontier for growth.
Certainly, I saw that in the family implications of the Miller Farmstead, but it often holds true in other areas as well. In addition to family values, beneficial but often-ignored traditions abound in church and spiritual pursuits, business and education, and health, healing, and nutrition. (There might be a parallel here to the categories in my blogs!)
This past Christmas, for instance, I posted several blogs detailing the value of keeping religious traditions such as Christmas (see the list of posts below). I’m also working on a book about how tapping into ancient faith practices can actually provide modern folks a breakthrough approach to spirituality.
The bottom line?
Being different doesn’t mean abandoning traditions.
In fact, sometimes it means embracing meaningful traditions that the world has abandoned.
You'll help yourself if you keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to ways of people who have gone before that can improve your life.
* Photo credit: Engin Akyurt from Pexels.
For further exploration of the exciting world of re-capturing healthy traditions that have been lost, check out these other posts:
About Spiritual Traditions
About the Family, Education, and Leaving a Legacy
And coming later this year:
My Word, Your Word, HIS Word, my new book about how to re-capture deeply meaningful spiritual traditions that have largely been lost in the contemporary church. If you’d like to know when the book is available, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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