When Mike was little, maybe 3, he opened his Christmas stocking at the table on Christmas morning and pulled out all kinds of goodies and each time he yelled, at the top of his little lungs, “YAHOOOO!” It was “Yahoo!” for small lego kits, “Yahoo!” for dog toys and “Yahoo!” for candy and matchbox cars, he was thrilled with all of it. When he got towards the toe of the stocking he pulled out a package of D cell batteries and yelled, “YAHOO BATTERIES!” Then he stopped, looked around the table, stared at me and said, “You got batteries for me, Mommy? I don’t need batteries!” He did need batteries for a gift that was to come, he just didn’t know it yet. But “Yahoo! Batteries!” is still a cry in our house for an unwanted gift.
When Kate was 3, Rick brought home long-stemmed red roses one day, just because. When he brought them inside, he pulled out two of the beauties and gave them to Katie. My darling daughter, a Disney princess devotee, held them gently in her arms and looked up at me with her big blue eyes and told me, “Mommy, when I get married…tell the prince…that this is the flowers I want…” I will let him know, when there is a prince worth of my princess.
Erick was almost 3 when he first saw a cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I debated letting him watch it because I wasn’t sure how he would react when Aslan was killed. But he sat with his best friends, Scott and Andrew, and watched mesmerized and when Aslan came to life again, Erick turned to me awestruck and said, “Mommy! Just like Jesus!” We all want our kids to be able to identify Jesus, no matter where they find Him.
These stories are the history of our family. There are so many that I hold close to my heart and I love to retell. Kate looked at a cute Tiger Cub Scout when she was four, pointed at him and said, “I want THAT one!” Erick used to sing along with the cassettes in our car, to the Amy Grant song El Shaddai he would sing, “I should die, I should die and you should diiiiee too …” Mike, in trouble again and convinced that he never did rated his punishment mumbled, “It’s not fair. Its never fair.” Pity the unlucky parent who asked me a question about children when I was teaching, they almost never escaped from my stories.
I could go on…but I shall not.
Well, as I continue to follow my reading plan, I am now reading Judges. I’ve progressed through Egypt, wandered in the Wilderness, and headed into the Promised Land with the Israelites. Joshua, who followed Moses, as the leader of the Israelites, has just died. In the book of Judges, God gives his people “judges” who act as spiritual leaders, or at least they try.
When I read, I write down phrases that the speak to me and this one keeps returning. A few times I have come across it and it has the ability to break my heart. It goes like this, with modifications depending on when the Spirit is using it: “…and Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all of the work that the LORD had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:7) An almost identical verse is found in Joshua 24:31 and it indicates that as long as there were leaders alive who had seen how God had worked, the people, the Israelites, lived in obedience. But once this generation had passed on, disobedience followed.
This is not a new or a deep principle. I work best under constant scrutiny and left on my own, I tend towards a downwards spiral of productivity. I am a teacher and I know what happens when a substitute arrives or when I pop my head outside of the door to talk to someone.
But then I combined this verse with God’s command to tell stories, to post things on doors, as a memorial to a work of God had done. The Bible commands, “Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation (Joel 1:3). And “he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments…” (Psalm 78 5-7). And back before the Israelites left Egypt, God told Moses that He sent the plagues so “that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 10:3). The Israelites also left rock piles, monuments to God’s faithfulness. As the Lord commanded Joshua before crossing the Jordan, ” When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them…” (Joshua 4:6).
My family knows plenty of the stories of how adorable they were when they were small. Or how much they were loved as soon as they were born. And they know plenty of stories they can tell to keep each other in line. But more than ever, I feel it is my job to tell, retell, maybe record the stories that tell how God “showed up” in our lives. Sometimes He rescued us from difficult situations, sometimes He walked through them with us, sometimes He sent the body to be “Jesus with skin on.” But He is here–Emmanuel, God with us.
If I want my children and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren (if He tarries) to remain faithful, then I must be faithful in telling His-story.