Old Stories

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. — Psalm 71:18

Yesterday, I had lunch with some of the older people in our congregation. These seniors have a lunch Bible study on Mondays led by Bill Lawrence, and I went to just get a sense of these people, some of whom I knew. It made me think of my mother’s Bible class back in Abilene which we attend every time we return.

Bill asked them to tell of some of their “Ebenezers” in hopes that I would get to know them better. (An ebenezer is a rock of remembrance and hope, referencing the Israelites’ victory over the Philistines at Mizpah in I Samuel 7, after which Samuel set up a rock to mark God’s intervention and deliverance.) So these good pillars of our church began to tell stories of their lives, and the further they went, the more I was moved. Stories of children lost, marriages both long and short, confessions of small faith and the resulting consequences that sometimes cost them years of suffering. And they told how people influenced them, the small gestures of kindness and invitation that eventually changed their lives and set them on the path to Christ and to lifelong discipleship. The smallest events stuck with them: the passing remark of a pastor at a door one Sunday morning, a temptation turned away from in WWII that perhaps made all the difference, the cancer-stricken child who had a strong intuition that perhaps God was calling her to heaven for a reason, the line-drawn decision that ill words and gossip would not leave her mouth.

The stories weren’t fancy, really, not terribly worthy of dramatization or television movies. But they told me of the long haul fabric of faith, and the daily discipline of committing our ways to the Lord in a simplicity and straight-forwardness that speaks of a much different time.

What stories will we tell when we sit over coffee in the tired days of someday? How will we impart our experience of God, calling the young to be faithful? It’s easy for young people, the kings and queens of this culture, to discard the ancient ones, but in doing so, we lose wisdom, dignity, and voices of faith I’m convinced God takes delight in. I hope we can find ways to sit together, young and old, and hear each others’ stories, the sin and the holiness, the loss and the finding, the days of despair and renewed hope.

We have so much to learn.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life…Proverbs 16:31

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