What has become the backbone of our time as a family on Sunday mornings is the Story. There’s something about saying, together, as a family: this is the story we believe. This is the story that we are a part of. This is how we got here. This is why we are here.
Each time it is the same story and yet each time the telling is different. Each time the emphasis is the same but different parts are highlighted. Each time I stop and ask what comes next at different points.
So it goes something like this:
We don’t know where he comes from or why. We don’t know anything about him before this story, we just know how this part starts. It starts in darkness. And he speaks and it is good. Light is formed, and sky. Land and seas. Planets and stars, moons and patterns. Ravens and whales. Ants and plants. And then something different. The hands of this lead character from out of dust, the body of man, and he breathes life into his lungs. He is male. First man. He bears the very image of the lead and it is very good. And then the lead, the main character rests.
The first man is tasked with caring for and cultivating a garden, with naming animals. The lead character, labeled God, wants good for the man and creates for him a perfect companion, someone who comes from him, is like him and yet unlike him, who also bears the image of God. She is woman and they fit together like one flesh and they work and live and play without shame in this great garden, walking with God.
They have everything they need and along slinks a new character. We don’t know where he comes from or why. We don’t know anything about him before this story, we just know how this part starts. He takes the form of a serpent and he whispers to the woman.
The essence of the whisper goes something like this: this God guy is no good guy. He can’t be trusted. Look at the power he has over you. Can you believe he would keep you from enjoying everything that is in this garden?
And she takes the bait, bites into it. They both do, woman and man, choose to not trust this lead character, they choose to take things into their own hands and they, together with the serpent, bring on themselves a curse.
They are cloaked in shame, clothed in the skins of the first sacrifice, and evicted from the garden. The serpent is banished to his belly and the lead character, God, says that one of the offspring of this woman will someday crush him, would make things right.
From there we pick up the pace and jump from Noah to Abram and the Promise, again, that from his offspring all nations would be blessed. He is called to sacrifice his one and only son and he does not hesitate, though it doesn’t make sense. At the last moment his hand is stayed and a ram is provided, foreshadowing a future event that doesn’t make sense, an event so potent that the very fibers of reality will fray and dance in its wake.
Isaac has twins and the ornery one marries sisters and together with their concubines he has twelve children. The youngest is sold into slavery by his brothers and goes from prisoner and slave to ruler and savior. He is later reconciled to his family and moves them all to Egypt.
The story continues on with Moses, the prince of Egypt turned shepherd who trusts God and frees his people from the Pharaoh after ten signs that counter the gods of the Egyptians, the final one, again, showing the need for the sacrifice of a lamb.
Israel is freed and wanders in the desert, receiving the Law, whom God himself knows they won’t be able to keep. While they wander he lives among them, in the Tabernacle. They enter the land promised to Abram and we talk about the judges, the kings, the prophets, and the exile. And the people are called back and are under Roman rule, longing for a king to come along and restore them as a nation.
And along comes another character, the one promised long ago, born to a young woman; announced by angels and searched out by shepherds and astrologers and kings. His name is ‘God with us.’ He lives a fairly nondescript, simple life until he is baptized by his cousin at which time the same voice that called light into existence places his stamp of approval and calling on him.
This Yeshua travels around for three years with a ragtag band of unlikelies and not-hardlys, doing wonders, giving signs, and talking about a new kind of kingdom that was about to be formed. He also tells them that he will be betrayed and killed and that he would come back, showing his love and giving proof that what he is talking about is real and true.
And that’s what happens. Betrayed. Crucified. Buried. He is resurrected to new life and spends forty days appearing to lots of people, reminding them of what he had said, promising that the one he refers to as Father would be sending his very presence to live in them. They would become tabernacles and temples, living vessels. The Law would be written on new hearts.
He does not institute religion or rules. He says, live this life that I’ve been showing you. Trust me. Tell the world this headline story that all is forgiven. You can be renewed and made right and live like man did in the garden.
He has gone and is preparing a new reality, a new heaven and earth and our life will go on into that one, where we will live with him, in his new economy, caring for and cultivating a new land, enjoying a life free of shame and pain like it was designed to be.
I know some of you that read this don’t agree. Some of you think, “Dang Jason, if you’re going to pick a fiction to believe, why not Asimov or Jordan or something a little more fanciful and fun?!” Others of you think, “Whoa, whoa, you skipped lots of details and proof and a whole lot of theology.”
That’s OK. This is the story that I believe. This is what makes sense to me. This is what I choose to believe and it is life-giving, fulfilling. It brings health to my bones and allows my soul to rest deeply. It empowers me to be a loving, gracious father and a caring, empowering husband. It leads me to be a good neighbor and a generous boss. It frees me to forgive quickly and to be ready to respond when a prompting leads me to do or say something that I wouldn’t otherwise do.
What story do you believe? What kind of life does it produce in you? Hope this helps. I wish I had been this consistent and thorough when my kids were younger. Hope this challenges you to think through what narrative you have adopted.