This is Your Story

April 28, 2024

I want to take a poll. Raise your hand if you have a recipe passed along to you by an older relative (from the previous generation). Great Aunt Susie’s Meat Loaf, maybe? Put your hands down. Now, raise your hand if you have a family story about how your great-great grandmother fought during the Civil War with some form of a sewing needle—or maybe it was a crochet hook? Never mind, it was World War I. 

The point is that you have a family history and stories, and you can follow the thread of who you were before you were even born. The same holds true for the Bible. Its characters are your spiritual ancestors.

The idea of having an intergenerational narrative is not new. In fact, it’s a concept that’s been heavily studied, and – you guessed it – it’s critical for a healthy sense of self and for personal resilience. Of course, the Bible is the most important family narrative we have today. But here’s the unbelievable thing: the Bible isn’t only a rich family story, but it’s perhaps the first place where you’ll find a reference to just how vital having a narrative truly is

Are you ready to see what the Bible teaches us about your family story?

Beginning with the book of Exodus – always a fabulous place to start  – we encounter a special instruction for each parent to recount the miracle of the Exodus to their children: 

Far more than a  7th-grade history lesson, it’s a personal narrative that we can share. As the passage says, this is what the Lord did “for me”. Not some other random fellow.

“Hey honey,” I can imagine myself saying: “Our family, no—I mean our actual family? Like our great-great-great-great-great—great-great —great…. a lot of great grandparents… God performed incredible miracles and saved them.”

The Bible even gives a practical way for the Israelites to remember this family history: The commandment to wear a “sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes,” which are the daily-worn Tefilin or phylactories, reminds us that these stories should reflect in our daily lives. It’s kind of like the framed needlepoint that your great-grandmother made that still sits in your mom’s old house. Or a family album from when you were a kid. They not only help us remember the past, but they should also help us inform our future. 

In Deuteronomy, there is another verse that expands on the concept of generational teaching: 

This commandment tells us that discussions about family faith should be included in every aspect of life, becoming as routine as eating, sleeping, or tying your shoes. Constantly sharing a family narrative helps tie it into the identity of each subsequent generation, creating a continuous thread that binds the family across the ages. 

We’ve established that the Bible really wants us to remember its stories forever. But why is this so important for the health and well-being of our children today and our future generations? 

Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist and professor at Emory University, conducted extensive research on the importance of a family narrative in teaching resilience. His wife, a psychologist who works with children with disabilities, said of her students: “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.”

Dr. Duke and his partner, Dr. Robyn Fyvish, created a questionnaire for children to answer with short questions about their family history. Questions such as “Do you know where your grandmother was born?” and “Do you know your own birth story?” were just some examples. Remarkably, they could see just how impactful their research was: for a few months after they published this questionnaire, September 11th tragically happened. Dr. Duke and Dr. Fyvish re-assessed their initial test subjects, and it turned out that the children with a more robust, engrained family history had lowered amounts of post traumatic stress. “Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as significant as a terrorist attack? The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.

Back to the original family history. The Bible. 

God promises to Abraham in Genesis. 

This is a promise – that as long as we maintain the thread of our family history, going back to our roots, to the source, to what’s important – God, too, will also preserve His promise. A promise that links each descendant back to a singular, monumental relationship with Him. When we teach our children the rich stories of our past, like the Exodus story, the creation story, or the resilience of Joshua as he helped the Israelites cross into Israel, we teach our children (and ourselves!) that we are part of a bigger picture. Our people have faced trials and tribulations in the past, and we will always be protected by God. We are part of a bigger family story and we always will be. What happened before us matters, what happens in the future matters, and most importantly, how we bring the story into our present lives matters too. 

And then, right there in Psalms, it tells us just that: 

Such storytelling instills hope and faith in God across generations, cementing a legacy of belief meant to inspire and endure.

I saw a fabulous advertisement from the grocery store Publix. On top of a display of Matzah, in preparation for the holiday of Passover, the sign said:

“Pass the plate. Pass down the story. Happy Passover.”

And that’s what this is all about. Telling the story of God’s salvation, of our triumph, of our faith and resilience, and letting our children know that this is the story that they have the privilege and responsibility to tell one day, too, is the essence of having a strong family narrative. 

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Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

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