Today’s guest post is from Kevin Becht, Area Director of Youth for Christ/Campus Life in Southern Indiana.
What was your favorite bedtime story when you were a kid?
My favorite was a classic story from my grandfather.
I was primarily raised by my grandparents. When bedtime came, I would lie on top of my grandfather’s bed, begging him to tell me stories of his childhood. My favorite was of the time he was sprayed by a skunk as he checked his box-traps on his way to school (uphill, both ways, in the snow I am sure).
The stories were simple, and not all of them stuck with me. But there was just something powerful about knowing that he knew what it was like to be a boy my age. You see, my grandfather was a World War II marine vet (those are stories he seldom told). He was still incredibly fit in his early 50s. His work ethic was amazing. I definitely put him on a very high pedestal. The stories he would tell made me realize he was human. He was like me. They made me realize I too had a story. They created a hunger in me to know others’ stories. Looking back on the fact that I didn't have a dad in the picture, these stories were even more vital to me knowing my own story.
Today, as I think back to that skunk story, I realize what was really happening as my grandfather told those stories. Ultimately, it created a desire in me to know God's Story, and for me, the stories of Jesus were the Father's "when I was a boy" stories. I understood that he was God on my level, because I had grown up hearing about Grandpa on my level. My family narrative was vital not only to my success as a person, but also to my knowing God's Story was for me.
I have come to realize that My Story is not just my "Christian Testimony," but that it truly is my "family narrative." With or without Jesus, the family we are born into shapes our story, and it is a story we should really get to know.
Here are a few suggestions to encourage family narratives in our homes and ministries:
Encourage the students in your ministry to seek out their “Family Narrative.” Challenge them to see who can find the most bizarre story from a parent, grandparent, or even a great-grandparent if they are still around. Then have a coffee house night of story sharing.
Seek out more of your own family narrative. On your next day off, spend some time visiting with an older family member if you live nearby. If not, I’m sure they would love a phone call.
Pass on your own family narrative to your own children, as well as the students in your ministry. Throughout my twenty-plus years of ministry, students still love to laugh at some of the silliest stories I have told over the years about my own life. Sometimes they surprise me with what they remember. Hopefully it builds a hunger for paying close attention to their own stories.