Do you remember when:
You were a six month old with colic? You kept your parents up at night with your screams of pain, and your screams of abandonment when they put you back to bed?
You looked up in complete and helpless love at your Dad who fixed your toy?
You hit your sister so hard she cried, and you were sent to your room in a self-righteous huff?
Your mom clapped like you were an Olympic platform diver when you peed in the potty?
Yeah. Me neither.
Oh, they all happened, I’m sure of that. But I was too young, or too distracted to bury those little slices of life into my brain. The only reason I know about them? I was told. And not just once, but many times over.
Oral traditions that pass along memories are important parts of life. They tell us who we are. And it reinforces family identity. I belong, and there are stories to prove it. Those vignettes from long ago are my ID card, proving that I’m a member of the “Ryan Tribe.”
No matter how many stories are remembered, there are some that just get lost in the cracks of time. Because of that, some families start tracing their roots on ancestry websites. My uncle wrote a fairly detailed family history of my mom’s side of the family, all the way back to Ireland. My brother interviewed my Dad a few years ago, and recorded the sessions on CD. It’s all an attempt to remember who we are, and where we belong.
If we know our past, we know ourselves.
The same thing is true for our heavenly family. Our Father knew how much we needed to hear the stories about them too. Thousands of years ago, he inspired the Prophet Joel to urge everyone to remember the wonders God had done: “Tell your children about it in years to come, and let your children tell their children.” (Joel 1:3) And in Deuteronomy 11, Moses tells the people; “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands…teach them to your children, talking about them as you sit at home.”
The bible contains the story of our spiritual family. It’s our extended-family album, with narrative of our famous, and not so famous ancestors. Were you there when Adam and Eve messed up? Were you there when Elijah was caught up in a whirlwind? Did you meet Jabez, and hear him speak his prayer? Of course not. But we know all about them, because we’ve been told. And we can revisit and refresh those memories again and again.
We should tell our children the stories of their lives. They need to be told, and repeated again and again. But we can’t forget to include the stories of their spiritual family too. The bible provides them with another ID card. It proves that they, along with all of us, are blessed members of “God’s Tribe.”
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