Photographs tell a story

I love looking at old photographs. I like picking them up and recalling the momentous occasions which caused us to stop and capture the moment. When I was little I remember going to visit my grandparents over the weekends and spending a long time listening to their stories as they proudly showed us their photographs. It was always very interesting to see how sometimes my grandma would be excited and cheerful about a particular photo, and sometimes she would pause, look deep into another with a longing for someone she had long lost. She would cry and she would sometimes laugh about the moments she treasured. Through the years, my sisters and I learnt the stories and we could recite them word for word, including the facial expressions and emotions.

As we walk through life we tend to mark moments in our history, don’t we? A birthday party, a first day or last day of school, a graduation ceremony, a group of close friends enjoying time together, a fun day at church camp or a dressing up contest set up by the youth leader. Our weddings, our children and their firsts. Other things we capture, a first car, a family pet, a treasured gift, a house we buy (sometimes, we take a photo of the house we wish we had). We tend to photograph the people who mean something to us in the hope we won’t forget them or how much we appreciate them. When visiting different places we click away trying to capture the place in the hope that when we look at them, we will remember the textures, the smells and sounds, the beauty and the impact the places had in our lives at that particular moment. As it happens, we capture happy moments but we also capture the sad ones. The broken leg, the stiches we had after a bad fall, the last photo with someone we love and we know will no longer be with us when we next visit. The photographs we take and the stories we tell are used to pass on to the next generation a bit of ourselves and our legacy.

In the Bible, we have the stories that God inspired men to write which tells us all about Him and His wonderful plan to rescue us. In the Old Testament we read the account of creation and a perfect place where God placed Adam and Eve and they were living in perfect harmony under His rule and enjoying His blessings. (Genesis 1) We see a sad day when sin entered the world when Adam and Even disobeyed God and creation was cursed and there was separation between God and humanity (Genesis 3). God so loved the world even then, he chose a people for Himself. God promised Abraham he would become a great nation and God would be their God and would be with them always. (Genesis 12:1-2) The accounts of Abraham and his descendants tell us how that story began. It is a fascinating story. An incredible demonstration of love and grace, time and time again.

Joseph’s story tells us of how much sin really is destructive and how it disregards life. His brothers sell him and lie to their father only because they were jealous of him. (Genesis 37)Through all his hardship Joseph trusts God and God performs an incredible rescue of his people from famine and they go to Egypt (Genesis 46). Many years later when they had been enslaved by the Egyptians God hears their cry and again He sends Moses to rescue them. To be a messenger, to point them to Him. (Exodus 3:1-10) They are rescued from Egypt and start their journey towards the promise land. The land God had promised to Abraham his descendants would enjoy.

At this point I have to apologise. These descriptions are more like faded black and white photographs – go read Genesis and Exodus. You will get all the colours, you will feel the emotions and will be placed in a much better place to understand these moments, you know why? Because God himself breathed it and used his chosen people to write it down. These are not just “old photographs”, they are the absolute truth.

After God rescued the Israelites from the Egyptians with mighty signs the people started to grumble and complain. Sin continued to corrupt the heart of men and they rebelled against their God. The people disobeyed God and were made to wander in judgement, through the wilderness, for 40 years until they are given the land God had promised (Numbers 14:26-35).

During this time God gives Moses the law, a set of principles and rules by which the people were to live. They were to be separated from the other nations, different, consecrated to God. They were to follow the rules carefully and they were to remember what God had done for them. At the end of his life Moses challenges the people to obey their God and remember what they had witnessed and pass it on to the future generations so they too would love and revere the Lord.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

I learned these verses when I was a teenager and recently I have been very challenged by them. Have I been telling my children about the wonderful things God has done? Am I spending time looking at the “photographs”, those special moments God recorded for our benefit, and sharing them with them? The command was for all the people, not just the ones who are Bible teachers or are in charge of leading God’s people in their spiritual growth. Do I speak about God’s power and might enough that my children want to know Him? Do I share it with them in a way to spark their interest? I am not sure I do it to the extent the verses challenge me to. I want to, but I know I cannot do it in my own strength. I need God to help me. I need the Holy Spirit to change my own desires so I can be obedient.

What about my own “photographs” and stories of my journey of faith? Have I been sharing them with my children? I need to tell them how God changed my heart one day and I surrendered to Him instead of running away from Him. They need to hear that it wasn’t always easy being a teenager that went to church on Saturday evenings instead of going out drinking with friends. There were plenty of tears shed during my school years when I was “bullied” for being a follower of Jesus, God helped me see that He was my friend and He would never leave me. My children need to hear how God helped me through times when friendships were shaken, some lost and some renewed in His strength (I am so grateful for the friends God has kept in my life). I need to let them see that I have cried and wrestled with God many times but even when I didn’t understand, with his help, I still chose to obey. God was there when singleness seemed to be the only option. The struggle to let go of a dream and trust in Him completely. He is so gracious and good and He gave me a wonderful husband to share my life with. He was there when loved ones died, to sustain and strengthen us. God was so present comforting us when having children of our own seemed very unlikely. Through the tears and shattered hopes he was there. We chose to trust Him with everything and He heard our prayers and blessed us with two beautiful children. I need to share these “photos”, these glimpses, these moments that tell my story of faith to help shape and point them to Jesus. Most of all I need to look back and see how much God has done for me and how much He has changed me. I need to give Him the glory.

May our great God help us as we recount the wonderful moments He has recorded in his word for us and may he help us to share our own stories of faith with our children so they too can learn to trust in Him and live for Him.

By the way, there are more wonderful moments in the Bible, so, don’t stop in the Old Testament – read it all!

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