jonathan stone's blog

. . . posts on faith and life

Storytelling

At some point most children ask their parents the question, “Why do we go to church?” In the Old Testament Moses gave the children a paradigm for dealing with such questions. In Deuteronomy 6:20-21 it reads, “When your children come to you saying, ‘What is the meaning of the commandments, laws, and rules which the Lord God has commanded you?’ then tell them, ‘We were slaves in Egypt, and God delivered us with a mighty hand.’”

It is interesting that Moses instructs them to avoid the question. He could have instructed them to sit down and talk about the rules and laws that governed their day-to-day lives. However, we are given a different paradigm. The model that we see here is that when our children begin to question the routines that mark our faith it should stand as a sign to us that it is time for us to tell them our story, a time to tell about His mighty deeds that we have witnessed.

God uses our stories to build up faith in others, including the next generation that will follow us. As we reach back and remember those stories He prepares us to move forward into the new things He is preparing to do. These stories do not have to be limited to stories that we saw with our own eyes. In fact, many of the people that Moses was talking to that day were too young to remember being liberated from Egyptian slavery, if they had been born at all. Yet, it was still their story too, passed along to them through storytelling. A generation of Israelites grew up in the wilderness hearing a wild tale of walking through the Red Sea on dry land, with walls of water on either side. Then they left the wilderness, entered Canaan, and the first miracle God did was to part the waters of the Jordan River. They walked across it on dry land. How excited they must have been to be experiencing their own miraculous river crossing! Now they understood what their parents and grandparents had experienced a generation earlier. Yet, this was also truly a new thing. They were venturing into new territory, and getting to see things that their forefathers had never seen.

I recently told my daughters the story of their great grandmother getting attacked in a grocery store while living on the mission field. In the midst of the attack the whole group screamed and ran out of the store. The cashier, frozen as if he had seen a ghost, asked my grandmother who that man was and where did he go. He estimated the man was over eight feet tall. My grandmother never saw the man, but knew that the Lord had sent her an angel that day to protect her. My girls’ eyes lit up as they thought about an eight-foot tall angel walking up behind their little great grandmother and scaring all the bad guys away. I was not there on the day that the Lord sent an angel to protect my grandmother. Nonetheless, that story lives in me, and now it lives in my children as well.

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