The first few days of January, we went to Texas to celebrate Dennis' mom's 90th birthday. Our gift to her was that we flew our kids & grandkids there, most importantly 3 1/2 month-old Olivia Ruth Worley, who was named after Alice Ruth.
We had a family party. Just our immediate family, with all the generations of kids and cousins, is a big crowd. So it took a long dining room table plus card tables & card tables & card tables, extending all the way across the house! Alice Ruth had assigned where we should sit, with all the Texas and Tennessee cousins mixed up together so they would talk and get to know one another. We hadn't been sitting at the table for very long before Dennis' cousin Nanda started telling stories, and then the avalanche of stories began, up and down the table, each generation having different memories to share and laughing at each other so hard we couldn't eat.
If I'd said to my kids, "We are going to Texas and for Grammer's party, I want you to prepare a speech about what it means to be a Worley and share a memory you have with Grammer," they would've dreaded it. We would've presented our speeches and sat down and still been divided into Texas and Tennessee. We wouldn't have laughed. We wouldn't have felt like family. We wouldn't have gone home knowing more about who we are and the family we come from.
We need to know who we are and where we come from. It's part of knowing why we are here and where we're going. Stories tell us this, so it's important that we know them and tell them.
And it's possible to be living a story that isn't at all true.
When I was growing up, my family's cousins would all gather on the family farm in Arkansas—my grandmother and her sisters and their kids and their grandkids. My cousin Marcy and I were the youngest girls; my cousins Janie and Susan were teenagers. Marcy and I thought they were the definition of cool. We spied on them all the time. My great-grandmother's farm house had those old walk-through closets; the doors had the old-fashioned great big key holes. Janie and Susan were in the front room. Marcy and I could sneak through the closet connecting our room to theirs and peek through the key hole into the secret life of teenaged girls, which included bras and finger nail polish and rock'n'roll on the radio.
This is what I remember from those summer days on the farm: My grandmother had five sisters, and one of them, Aunt Helen, was never at these gatherings. She was never talked about. My grandmother and her sisters would fill their days cooking from morning til night in the kitchen til it was hotter than August in Arkansas in there. We were sent outside to play, and whenever we went outside, someone would yell, "Stay away from the well!" Of course this meant we were irresistibly drawn to the well, til Janie and Susan told us, "You'd better stay away from that well. Aunt Helen went crazy and threw herself down there. If you go near it, she'll snatch you down it."
I believed that Aunt Helen went crazy and threw herself down the well until I was a grown woman and mentioned it at a family reunion. Everybody stopped talking and someone said, "Where on earth did you get that idea?" and I pointed my finger at Janie and Susan, snickering in the corner. What really happened was that Aunt Helen got sick and had to go into what they used to call "a sanitarium." She never recovered. I learned in later years that there was a fair amount of history of depression in my family, a fact I needed to know when I dealt with depression. The women I come from were teachers and mothers and farm wives and gardeners and poets, and some dealt with depression, but no one threw herself down a well, and this is helpful to know, so you don't spend your life afraid of the wrong things.
So, this week in our Wednesday Bible study, we go back to the very beginning of God's story, which is the beginning of each of our stories. The story of creation tells us enormous things about God, about the world, but especially about our place in it and our unique part in God's love story. None of us have ever experienced the world as it was when God created it, but we get glimpses, and our longings confirm that we were indeed made for it. Most of all, the creation story tell us we were made for God; we were, unlike anything else in creation, patterned in his likeness. We were made to know him and play a huge part in his story.
God knew what he was doing from the very beginning.
He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.
- Romans 8:29-30 The Message
Where you came from: it makes all the difference in where you're going and how you get there.
Here's the story of how it all began.
Who will you tell this story to?