Then God said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." (Exodus 3:1-6)
Our church decided to do something a little different this summer for our Sunday morning Christian education class. Building on a series my former church in Chicago had once done, we created a multi-generational class in which ten guest presenters from "The Greatest Generation" were invited to come in and simply share their faith stories with us. We titled our new series, "Faith Stories: Journeying With God Through Life." There was no specific format to these talks, and no guidelines were given to the presenters; they could simply talk about whatever they wanted to talk about. We just wanted to hear, through their stories, how their stories shaped their faith in God––or, maybe more appropriately, how their faith in God shaped their stories.
It's been an amazing summer. So far we've heard from Ray, a WWII Army vet and Purple Heart recipient who relayed for us a first-hand account of the Battle of the Bulge, as well as attending Sunday school in our church back in the 1930s; Gerda, a German native who grew up under Nazi rule and met Adolph Hitler (twice); Art, who has a Ph.D. in physics and worked on Nobel prize-winning research and development projects; Lenore, a WWII Wave who lived in some amazing places and ministered to family members battling mental illness; and Clara, whose son was killed in action in Vietnam but whose faith sustained her throughout it all.
It has been an incredible honor and privilege to hear these stories. I have been reminded again and again of the passage from Exodus (above), because as I listen to these stories I feel as though I'm standing on holy ground. Like Moses, I feel as though I should remove my shoes in deference to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because God is very present, in each and every story.
Sometimes the connection is made explicit, as when presenters credit God and prayer with guiding them through every step in life; sometimes the connection is less explicit, and we are left to see for ourselves the unseen hand of God in the twists and turns of their lives.
But one thing comes through loud and clear, whether the point is made explicitly or implicitly: God is there for all of it, and God is there in all of it. God is there in the stories of our lives.
I'm impressed with the openness of our presenters with respect to sharing their experience of God, as well as the courage they've had in discerning (and acting on) God's gentle nudges. Many of our presenters are in their 80s and even 90s, and they have a unique perspective in looking back and seeing the hand of God that's often so difficult to perceive in the present––but which, as they've illustrated, becomes crystal clear in hindsight.
Their stories are stories of survival, of resilience, and of perseverance ... but most of all, they are stories of hope. Hope that endures, hope that trusts, and hope that most of all is realized as they look back and see how very blessed they've been. The Light of Christ shines brightly in each and every story, illustrating how even the darkest of times are illuminated with God's unique silver lining.
I am grateful beyond words for the graciousness with which our presenters have shared their lives, their stories, and their experience of God with us, because their stories help us frame our stories. They help us see that God is there for all of it, and that God is there in all of it.
God is there in the stories of our lives. In theirs, in mine, and in yours.
What's your story?