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As I write this, my two teenagers are “zooming” their classmates and friends and working away at the assignments their teachers have given them during this period of online learning. Life has changed for us drastically in the last week as I imagine it has for many of you.
When my girls found out that their classes were moving online and that events they had long been looking forward to were canceled, the seriousness of this global pandemic began to set in. As we talked together about the different ways our lives would be affected by the Covid-19 virus and what commitments we would make as a family to help curb its spread, one of my daughters commented, “When I am grown up and have kids of my own, I’ll be able to tell them how I lived through the coronavirus.”
“When I am grown up . . .” It was a much needed reminder that things won’t always be like this. The days of social distancing and self-isolation, of the fear of getting sick, of teaching and learning exclusively online, of canceled church services and other occasions for face to face interaction, of stock market volatility, and of whatever else is part of our current normal, won’t last forever.
This will eventually pass. We will be able to gather for worship again, greet each other with the peace of Christ again, shake hands and give each other hugs again. Our lives and our calendars will be full again of social engagements and opportunities to be with others. And while there will no doubt be lasting effects of this global virus, in time, for many of us, life will return to some semblance of normal. Life will go on.
But when my daughter is grown up, when she tells her children about this time, I wonder what she will say? How will she tell the story of living during the time of the Covid-19 virus? How will she describe the response of our nation, our community, our family? What will she say of the actions we took, the attitude we exhibited, the choices we made, the places where we put our energies? How will she tell this story?
The stories we tell from one generation to the next is one of the key ways children form an understanding of the world and their place in it. Family stories in particular can help children feel connected to something larger than themselves, learn from past wisdom and past mistakes, and inspire their own religious, moral, and character formation.
Perhaps this is why stories have such a prominent place in the Old Testament and why, throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites are commanded to remember, teach, tell these stories to their children.
Remember, teach, tell
“Watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them,” we read in Deuteronomy 4:9.
“Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered, O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.” (Psalm 105:5)
“Hear this, O elders, give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your ancestors? Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children and their children another generation.” (Joel 1:2-3)
Remember, teach, tell — so that your children know who they are and whose they are.
One consistent theme that runs through the stories of Scripture is God’s faithfulness to his people. Psalm 105 and 136 rehearse the mighty acts of God in Israel’s history, remembering “the wonderful works he has done (v. 5).” These psalms illustrate and celebrate God’s steadfast love for his people from generation to generation.
Through it all, Israel’s disobedience and waywardness, through their trials and sufferings, God remains faithful, refusing to let his people go, refusing even to let them suffer alone. Certainly, in the midst of these trying times, this is our source of comfort and strength as well. God is faithful. He is our refuge and our strength . . . an ever present help in times of trouble!
But another theme in these stories is the response of the people of God to life’s opportunities, challenges, temptations, and hardships. At times, they responded in courage and faith — like Rebekah who went with Abraham’s servant to a land far from home to marry a man she didn’t know, trusting this was the Lord’s leading (Genesis 24:57-58). At other times, they responded with grumbling and complaining, like the motley crew of Hebrews that God rescued from Egypt (Exodus 16). Some, like Boaz and Ruth responded with generosity, putting the needs of others before themselves. Others, like Abigail responded with wisdom and discernment (1 Samuel 25). Still others respond with fear and cowardice. One has only to think of Abraham when he tried to pass Sarah off as his sister, not once, but twice.
What story will she tell?
All of this makes me wonder how my daughter will tell the story of this challenging time. Certainly it will include the theme of God’s faithfulness. God’s steadfast love endures forever. No matter what happens in the days to come, whether we recognize it or not, we know we are not alone in this. God is with us.
But what will she tell her children about the response of our family or our church? Did we respond with grumbling and complaining, fear and cowardice, or did we act with courage and faith, wisdom and generosity, caring for others as we would also want to be cared for?
Only time will tell. However, I hope her story-telling is kind to us. Better yet, I hope our actions and behavior during this crisis give her reason to tell this story with pride.
“Let me tell you about your grandma and grandpa,” she might say. “They taught me what love and faith looks like.”