When I was a kid, my grandparents had a cottage. Every Sunday afternoon in the summer, my aunts, uncles and cousins would come out for the day. In the evening I loved sitting around the edges of the conversation near my father, grandfather and uncles and listening to them tell stories.
I remember few details of those stories, but I do remember this; two of my uncles always talked as though they were so clever and wise, but everyone else, their bosses, the government and even “friends” were buffoons. They were complainers and I remember thinking that I really didn’t want to be like these men when I grew up. The stories they told – told me a story about them.
On the other hand, my father and my grandfather were far less critical and I actually remember many of their stories – stories of mistakes they made, of men they admired and why. Their stories both inspired me and taught me about business and human nature. Their stories also made me aware of traps men can so easily fall into. I longed to be like my father and my grandfather. I also wanted to be virtuous enough to make them proud of me someday.
Sadly, I don’t remember too many stories about spiritual things even though everyone went to the same church. No one talked about Jesus, as though he was someone they knew personally. The religious talk, if any, was about what was happening at “our church.” So, I rarely heard stories that drew me to Jesus. The Art of Storytelling in the Bible When we read the stories of Noah, Job, Abraham and of course Jesus, it feels like we’re sitting around the edge of “the conversation” God is telling us about them, as well. God is telling us their stories for a purpose.
I’ve noticed that not every time God tells us a story does he end them with a “thou shall not” or “thou shalt.” But nevertheless, we get the point. We learn something about the nature of multi-generational sexual sin when we read about David and Bathsheba. We learn about the toxic consequences of sibling rivalry when we read the story of Esau and Jacob. The stories God tells us, tell us what’s important to God for us to know. They shape our biblical worldview.
What’s the point? The point of this blog is this: When your children listen to the stories you, your wife and friends are telling, they’re picking up signals as to what, and who, you value.
If your conversations are more about great vacations, nice cars and T.V. programs you enjoy, than about virtuous living, you’ve told them what you value most, without specifically saying “Here’s what I value.” If you or your friends are gossiping, and you’re joining in, rather than stopping it, you’ve communicated to your kids, gossip is okay, without saying a word directly to them. If you are critical of your pastor or his sermons, you’ve caused your children to doubt the value of future sermons or your pastor’s character.
When I was a child, I learned more about real life sitting in the back seat of our station wagon then I ever did, because my parent sat me down for a face-to-face conversation. The good news for me was that my parent’s conversations with each other and about others, were kind and gracious most of the time. The stories they told, told me a story about them. It was a good story.
Your stories So here’s my advice: 1. Be careful with the stories you tell to, or around your children or grandchildren. While you may think they’re just playing video games in the back seat, they’re listening as well. 2. Intentionally, tell stories that inspire your children. Tell them stories of men and women you admire. Tell them about the wisdom of your pastor or godly people you know. Talk about how you choose what music you’re listening to based on the message or character of the artist. Talk about movies you’ve walked out of and why, or the T.V. programs you’ve turned off. Talk about the friend you admired and the friends who dragged you down, when you were young. Tell stories of the mistakes you made and what you learned from them.
I took five of our oldest grandchildren on a three-day road trip to Hilton Head last spring. As I was driving, I asked the Holy Spirit to recall to my memory, stories I should tell them. I shared all kinds of stories. I’m sure some were boring, but I knew those stories would tell them the people and lessons I valued and have learned.
Commit yourself to being a storyteller whose stories your children will both remember and want to pass on to their children.
“We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” Psalms 78:4
How following Jesus works in real life.
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