One afternoon last week when I returned home from the church office, I found that Tyra had left something on the dresser for me that she had discovered while going through a box in one of the closets. In the months after my mother died, our dad began to compile his memoirs, recollections of experiences and events from across the eight-plus decades of his life. My older brother, Henry (Henry is twelve years older than me but somehow manages to look younger than me), compiled them and then published copies for each of the four siblings. Tyra ran across my copy and left it out for me to see once again.
Even though I read it for the first time years ago, I haven't been able to put it down. (Dick Lewis of our Imagine Church family has written a similar volume about the Lewis clan, and such works are always fascinating to me.) Dad reminisced about growing up on the farm in Rhode Island, about helping my grandfather construct their new two-story home by hand, and about how he and my mother first met. Throughout the pages, however, were references to the event that shaped and molded his life as did none other: World War II.
My dad was twenty-two years old and newly married when he went off to war. Two of his brothers, Irving and Merle, went to serve as well. Merle didn't return, giving his life fighting for the cause of liberty on the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal. As I read through Dad's account, I realized that I had heard many of these stories while growing up as he recounted them for Henry, Connie, Pam and me. Though not all returning servicemen could, Dad was one who could share the stories of his experiences doing battle in the Pacific, in places like Midway Island, Okinawa, and the Philippines Gulf. It was through the hearing of those stories as a child that I gained a sense of who my dad really was. I loved him, of course, but, as a youngster, I was also in awe of him -- because he witnessed historic events that seemed surreal and persevered through the most impossible of circumstances. It was also through the retelling of those stories that consigned those things to the past for him and allowed him to move beyond them.
History, written on the pages of your life, has power and needs to be told. The struggles of our lives create a story of God's power at work within us. Psalm 78:4 says (in The Message Bible), "We're not keeping this to ourselves, we're passing it along to the next generation -- the marvelous things God has done."
Your story matters. It matters to God, and it is needed by others. As large or as minuscule as you believe your story is, God has entrusted you with it to help others overcome. This week, my prayer is that God makes us into an open book with words written in our lives by the Author himself.
In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas