Passing On the Good Story – Psalm 78
By Stephanie Rische
Last weekend the women in my family got together to celebrate the upcoming birth of my sister’s baby. We don’t know the name or the gender yet, and we don’t know this little one’s hair color or personality or special talents. But one thing is for certain: this baby is already incalculably loved.
We sat around the living room sipping raspberry punch long after the shower was over, telling stories about Meghan as a baby and retelling family lore—about sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings. At one point I just sat there looking at all the beloved faces, trying to let the moment soak in. There were four generations represented in that room—my grandmother, my mom and a smattering of aunts, my sister, and the baby we were eager to meet.
The guests had been asked to bring a book they’d loved as children, and the selections were a delightful mix of classic and modern, serious and fanciful, playful and deep. Then Meghan opened the last gift, unobtrusively tucked in a small bag at the back of the pile. As soon as she revealed the contents, the room drew in a collective breath.
After a moment, Grandma spoke up, her eyes shining. “It was your grandfather’s first book,” she said.
The aunts recognized it immediately. “The Old, Old Story of Poor Cock Robin!” they exclaimed.
Meghan held up the book and reverently opened it to the first page. “Published in 1920,” she marveled.
The binding was cracked and some of the page corners were bent, but the story was intact, just as generations before had remembered it.
“When I was growing up, my family didn’t have money for books,” Grandma said. “The Great Depression, you know.” So she has treasured this book of her husband’s for the six-plus decades of their marriage, sharing it with their children and their grandchildren—and now their great-grandchildren.
I was surprised to read Psalm 78 and find that it, too, talks about passing on stories from one generation to the next:
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done. (verses 2-4)
The charge here wasn’t to the religious leaders but to ordinary people. Rather shockingly, God put the baton for the nation’s spiritual legacy in the hands of moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles. God commanded them to leave their children and their children’s children with a spiritual legacy—the stories of God’s faithfulness and miracles in their lives.
When I think about my own grandparents, that century-old book is merely a symbol of all they’ve passed on to us over the years. They’ve left a legacy of love, commitment, hard work, lifelong learning. And above all, faith in God.
In the past 67 years of marriage, Grandma and Grandpa have dealt with years of separation by a great war, birthed 12 children, and stretched one salary to feed fourteen mouths. They’ve faced unnumbered heartbreaks, worries, fears, and illnesses. But through it all, they have remained faithful. To each other, to their family, to their God. But even more important, their God has remained faithful to them.
Their stories became woven into the fabric of their souls, and they happily passed on those stories to their children and their children’s children . . . until the next generations had stories of their own to share.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which 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. (5-7)
As I think about the psalmist’s charge to pass on the tales of God’s goodness, I wonder about my own spiritual canon of stories. Do I keep a record—verbal or written—of the times God has come through for me and worked powerfully in my life? Am I sharing those stories with the next generation?
I used to think that this mandate of spiritual storytelling didn’t apply to me since I don’t have children of my own. But the more I ponder this passage, the more convinced I am that God expects the training of the next generation to be the responsibility of his whole family, not just immediate biological families.
So I guess that means I’d better be ready to share my “God stories” with the children God brings into my life: my godson, my friends’ kids, the girls I mentor, and this new little niece or nephew I expect to meet soon.
I hope eventually my story will become as well loved and frayed around the edges as Grandpa’s “old, old story.” That’s how stories should be, after all—told and retold to the next generation . . . until they’re worn and familiar. Like a much-loved book.
Stephanie Rische is a senior editor of nonfiction books at Tyndale House Publishers, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as Her.meneutics, Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Marriage Today, and Significant Living magazine. She and her husband, Daniel, live in the Chicago area, where they enjoy riding their bikes, making homemade ice cream, and swapping bad puns. You can follow Stephanie’s blog, “Stubbing My Toe on Grace,” at StephanieRische.com.