By Alison Andreasen
My children love family stories. They ask about my childhood. They beg to hear stories from Grandma and Grandpa about what their aunts and uncles were like as small children. They love hearing about the times in their own lives that they don’t remember. And although stories from long ago when Great Grandma was little are harder to grasp, they still love hearing them.
Because they enjoy these family stories so much, I have found myself telling them for more than entertainment. I tell them to help keep family bonds strong even when thousands of miles separate us. I also tell them to help my children understand the consequences of their actions and to encourage making good decisions.
Besides my children’s biological family, there is another family that they are a part of--their spiritual family. Stories that our elderly church members tell of times when women sat on one side of the church and men sat on the other and how the services were done in German, not English, spark the curiosity of my children.
This spiritual family also includes those who live in other parts of the world. My oldest likes to recount the time Bishop Omolo from Kenya stayed at our house and we asked what he liked to eat. When he responded, “food,” everyone laughed, and connections to the Body of Christ in another part of the world were made.
This spiritual family also includes believers of other times including people whose lives are recorded in Scripture. What if we were more intentional about telling those stories? Could we comfort the only left handed child in the family by telling her about King Ehud? Could we invite our children to giggle with us when considering that Paul talked so much that someone fell asleep and fell out a window and recall how God used Paul to raise him back to life? Could we arbitrate disputes over toys by telling the account of Solomon and his wisdom with the women who both claimed a baby?
As I mentioned before, I sometimes use family stories to teach wisdom and when disciplining my children. I want my children to recall the accounts of our spiritual family members recorded in Scripture when discerning between right and wrong. Perhaps my children would recall Abraham’s faithfulness and seek to imitate that. They could be encouraged seeing that even King David committed terrible sins but repented and was forgiven. Some might call this moral lessons in Scripture and have little red flags fly in their mind’s eye. Before you skewer and grill me next to your cheddar-filled, beer-soaked bratwurst, let me call on the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXI on The Invocation of Saints, in my defense. (Emphases mine)
“Our Confession approves honoring the saints in three ways. The first is thanksgiving. We should thank God because He has shown examples of mercy, because He wishes to save people, and because He has given teachers and other gifts to the Church. These gifts, since they are the greatest, should be amplified. The saints themselves, who have faithfully used these gifts, should be praised just as Christ praises faithful businessmen. (Matthew 25:21). The second service is the strengthening of our faith. When we see Peter’s denial forgiven, we also are encouraged to believe all the more that grace truly super abounds over sin (Romans 5:20). The third honor is the imitation, first of faith, then of the other virtues. Everyone should imitate the saints according to his calling…”
When talking with our children, we can point out the temptations our family in Scripture faced and look at how they responded--good and bad. Sometimes we will be encouraged by their faithful living. Sometimes we will see their sins and the consequences that they experienced. Ultimately it leads us to give thanks for God’s mercy and grace poured upon the great cloud of witnesses and show that His mercy and forgiveness is for our children as well. We can show Christ working in sinners, through sinners, and despite sinners to bring salvation to His people and glory to His name!
Of course, we can’t refer to the lives of the saints unless we learn about them ourselves. I have a long way to go in knowing their lives as well as my own family’s. After telling my children about someone, I often fact check myself afterward just to make sure I haven’t misrepresented the individual or said something that Scripture did not say. Teaching my children has given me yet one more reason to read, mark, and inwardly digest God’s word. As the saying goes, “There is no better way to learn than to teach.”
I wish I had a list of resources to encourage getting to know our Biblical family more, but really the best way is to read about them in context and read their exact words. When I am reading Scripture often, I can find correlations and similarities in my day and am more likely to share what I have learned with my children as the opportunities arise. I especially appreciate reading the minor prophets such as Amos, Joel, and Jonah. Alternately, the books that contain well known stories that get summarized often such as Daniel and 1 and 2 Samuel make great reading as well.
May God, the Creator, Sustainer, and Perfecter of our faith work in us--with what we do know--and despite what we don’t--to sustain our children in the faith until He returns again.
Alison is a wife of one, mother of three, and teacher of many. She lives in rural South Dakota where she enjoys life on the prairie as a dual parish pastor’s wife. A trained Lutheran school teacher and homeschooling mom, she has a passion for children’s education, especially education in the Christian faith. She is a brainstormer by nature and those who are close to her never know what new idea she will think of next. Recent adventures with her family have included tapping trees to make syrup; creating, expanding, and selling her own granola business; and learning to preserve fresh garden goodness for year-round use.