Your Story Will Tell Them Who You Are
Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been seventy-six today if she were alive to celebrate. But she passed away nearly three years ago--taken away from the world far too soon.
To say that I miss my mom is perhaps the understatement of my lifetime. There's not a day that goes by that I don't miss her---especially now, during this extraordinarily trying time.
I would give anything to be able to sit down with her and tell her everything that's going on in my heart and my head. She was the most amazing and non-anxious listener I've ever known... not to mention gentle, kind, patient, and loving beyond all measure.
My mom taught me about the love of God. But she didn't teach me about the love of God by parsing scripture passages or lecturing me on theology. Her "curriculum" was more expansive, more inclusive and more real in it's content.
The Christianity that was expressed in the faith communities we were a part of when I was young was too small for her, too narrow minded and exclusive. My mom's understanding of God was bigger by far.
Doctrines, dogmas, beliefs... those things interested her far less than what she could learn from the beauty of the birds that frequented her bird feeder, or an afternoon spent watching my boys play when they were small.
You see, her faith wasn't theoretical it was lived, and experienced.
She trusted in the power of prayer because she knew it made her feel more connected to God and the people she prayed for. She trusted in the universal and unconditional love of God because she had experienced God's lovingkindness during the worst moments of her life.
A few days ago, I read this line from Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar In The World that resonated with me as I'd been thinking about these things:
People can learn as much about the ways of God from business deals gone bad or sparrow falling to the ground as they can from reciting the books of the Bible in order. They can learn as much from a love affair or a wildflower as they can from knowing the Ten Commandments by heart.
I think it's important for us to study Scripture, and to learn about theology, and develop ideas that will shape the way we understand God, ourselves and others. I spend a lot of my time doing just that, or helping others figure out how to do it well for themselves.
But in the end, what we learn... what we think we know... the things we argue, defend and debate will be remembered far less by the people in our lives than the way we lived out our faith in real ways with integrity and love.
The Irish poet Brendan Kennelly puts it like this:
Your story will tell them who you are.
I love that so much---especially today as I think about my mom's story, and what it tells about her, and her faith.
I can only dream that I will be able to demonstrate the kind of faith that my mom lived out every single day of her life. But I will do my best to tell a better story.
Each of us has the same challenge before us every day.
Do we want to learn how to argue about what we believe, or to demonstrate how we trust in God's promises by the way we live?
Do we want to fill our heads so full of information that we become puffed up with knowledge, and certainty but then end up neglecting the work of the Spirit in the world around us?
Because the story we are writing about ourselves tells the people around us who we really are, despite anything else that we might say.
This is a good lesson for me to reflect on today---as I remember my sweet mom and all the ways she taught me to live and love. Her memory is a blessing to me, and to my entire family.
May you write a good story today---one that touches the hearts of the people around you with light and life, and may that story speak to the truth inside of you... that you are loved, redeemed, rescued and resurrected.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.