We are often admonished to remember our history. Recently, we have heard messages about reading biographies, the life of Winston Churchill, lessons from Herbert W. Armstrong, and the California receivership in the Worldwide Church of God. This past December 7 was the 29th anniversary of the start of the Philadelphia Church of God, and January 16 was the 33rd anniversary of Mr. Armstrong’s death. We have heard a lot about the importance of these dates.
As a young person, it is easy to hear these things and still not really grasp any of them. They can be a list of facts and figures that hold no emotional weight whatsoever. When it comes to remembering “our history,” it is much easier when it is something that we have actually lived through. We saw it. We felt it. We experienced it.
So how do we remember something that we didn’t live through?
For me, growing up with this idea of remembering history that I didn’t feel was mine was something rather difficult. I grew up hearing stories from brethren about how they were called into God’s Church. There were miracle stories about God saving them from a potentially lethal situation or helping them during a trial. There were heartfelt stories about how they came to love God and His truth. Their stories were incredible.
In my mind, my story amounted to “I was born into it”—a sentence that didn’t seem exciting, special or fun to tell others.
Now, my parents had quite the story, and I adored hearing my dad tell it. I still love hearing him tell it, and I will never get tired of hearing it. I love how my parents each have stories about how God preserved them before they met. I love how they realized together that what they had previously believed didn’t make sense. They started proving things for themselves. I love the part where a co-worker gave my dad his first booklet: Just What Do You Mean Salvation? I love watching my dad’s eyes light up as he describes just how amazing it was when the whole world started to make sense—when he and my mom finally felt like their purpose for existing was worthwhile.
A couple of years ago, someone asked me for my story. My answer—“I was born into it”—was just my opening line. From there, I went back. I began to tell my parent’s story because it was much more interesting than mine.
As I was telling it, I began to realize something. I could feel my eyes light up with the most exciting parts. I had heard the story so many times that I felt like it was my own. And the truth is, it was. It is.
That story is my history, even though I wasn’t alive when a lot of it happened. In many cases, I didn’t even exist as an idea. But I thought further, and I started to tell stories. I told the story of my parents. I told the story of when Mr. Stephen Flurry first read Malachi’s Message. I read Mr. Armstrong’s Autobiography, and I told his story. I adored the story of how Richard David Armstrong came into his own.
The strongest memories we have are usually those attached to some kind of emotion. The more I read and heard about all the history—and the more I talked about it—the more of an emotional connection I felt to it. We can even make that connection with men like James, John, Paul, Peter, Moses, Joseph, Isaac and Abraham by studying their stories.
The older I get, the more things I find or experience that add to my history. I have my own stories now. I can look back in hindsight and see many times when God has protected me, when I have witnessed miracles, and when I have grown in understanding. Recently, I read Just What Do You Mean Salvation? and I could read it knowing that it played an important role in my history.
Perhaps you don’t know what to say when someone asks you for your story. Perhaps you’ve never thought about remembering history that you don’t feel belongs to you. But the history of God’s Church and God’s Family does belong to you because you are a part of it. The best way to make God’s Family story a part of you is to make that emotional connection with it: Read it, study it, and talk about it.
Today, when someone asks me what my story is, it makes me smile. When I think about where my story begins, I think of John 1:1, and I remember that my story takes a lot longer to tell than a single sentence does. My history is tied to God’s history, and that will take all eternity to tell.