When it comes to talking about God stuff, I’m a lot like your Uncle Frankie.
When you took your best friend Eddie to see him, Uncle Frankie was amusing. Because Eddie didn’t know the stories. When you took a new beau over, you worried a bit. But Uncle Frankie’s stories were fresh, and they gave a picture of what makes your family distinctive. Quirky at times, and a little out of sync with what everyone calls “reality”, but your family.
When I teach, I remember that I only know about twelve stories. When I talk about restoration, I talk about my friend Richard. When I talk about prayer, I talk about conversations with God. When I talk about failing, I talk about the idea of a baby learning to walk. Some of you who know me in real life have heard these stories too often.
I used to think I needed to come up with new material all the time. I’m realizing that if I were a newscaster, I would need new material. If I were an essayist, I would need new essays. But because I am a teacher, originality isn’t always a virtue. Formation is. Some stories are classics. They must be retold because they define us. They remind us. They pull us back to our identity.
When Uncle Frankie talked about the time he gave up being a soldier and started working on rebuilding churches, we remembered that our family lives counter-culturally. And when we tell the story of the God who put on a body and died and lived again, we remember hope.