Almost all families have their own oral histories, and some have even written the stories down to be passed along to future generations. We all love stories, of course. But more than enjoyment, the family stories are very useful. They provide a shared imagery, a common point of reference.
‘He’s just like Uncle George.’ ‘This reminds me of the time your grandmother….’ The characters and stories of other, related lives help us to make sense of our own.
Are all the characters accurately drawn? Are all the stories literally true? Once, perhaps. But now—probably not. Each telling of any piece of the family story adds a new angle, embellishes a few of the details. This is just as it should be. We don’t, after all, tell the stories because of their facts, but because of their meaning.
The Bible is the collective family narrative for those of us in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. It is full of colorful, memorable characters and packed with stories about how they lived their lives and met their challenges.
We use the stories as points of reference to help us stay centered in ourselves and our loved ones. ‘He has the patience of Job,’ we might say, and we have communicated a wealth of meaning in Bible shorthand. Or we call someone a Good Samaritan, or we listen to a still, small voice. ‘Don’t be such a doubting Thomas,’ we may say to a resident cynic. It’s all in the family—rich, wonderful, entertaining and helpful as we move forward together on our shared spiritual path.
Today, with great joy, let us recognize the richness and textures of our larger family—the family of spiritual adventurers whose brave, eccentric, memorable ancestors we remember in the stories of the Bible. Thank you, God, for the power and guidance of our great family album.