PRESERVE THE STORIES
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart. Psalm 119:2
How many, and how powerful, are the testimonies of God's people through the ages. Blessed are those who preserve them. To 'keep' is to guard something and preserve it with dignity.
I can be more preoccupied with preserving a family recipe, a family tradition, a family story of heroism than I am preserving the stories of my spiritual family which give God the glory He deserves. Do I make much of the song of praise the children of Israel sang on the other side of the Red Sea? Am I amazed by the first version of the Magnificat that Hannah (barely a young woman) wrote after she was delivered from barrenness? Do I feel the deep gratitude of David when God repeatedly spared his life and ushered him to his day of coronation safely? Does my spirit feel the thrill when I read about the walls of Jericho coming down after a seven day march and a trumpet blast? If these stories make my heart pound, I will preserve them and guard their veracity with a vengeance. If I hear them ridiculed or minimized in public, I will rise to defend them. If I am engaged with the characters beyond mere interest, I will count the days until I can tell them to my children and grandchildren.
I am ashamed to say that I can be more emotionally engaged with stories where people I know are the heroes rather than those where God is the center of attention. I can sit in church, hear the text about to be preached, and think..."Oh, that story!" Thinking I know the plot well, I sit back, doodle, and coast through the service.
To be changed by scripture is to emotionally engage with it. To read in order to study is of little benefit. To read in order to walk in another's shoes and feel the dust of Capernaum between my toes, that is another thing. Ten years ago, I took a year to live inside the skin of the characters from the book of John. It got so that I couldn't talk about Peter without crying. I couldn't tell the story of Mary taking hold of Jesus feet after her brother died without feeling her broken heart. That kind of heart engagement with my spiritual ancestors changed me. Each one interacted with Jesus, saw His glory, and had a visceral reaction.
God promises that those who guard the testimonies of the saints will be happy. I can most assuredly promise you that it's true. When I get to stand up before a group of women and tell the Shunamite woman's story from II Kings, I am chomping at the bit until the time comes. I can hardly sleep the night before for the anticipation of it. Every time a decoration committee of some event offers me a stool to sit on to teach, I never take them up on it. I'm always way too excited to sit down.
So many more stories. As I learn them, I will guard them, and then tell them. Amen
Originally published Thursday, 27 September 2018.