Epic Parenting

Sky’s flushing red from today’s long race and children lie in beds and I sit on worn chair in the hallway.  It’s my nightly post, seat at day’s finish line.

From chair there under light, I open pages and read into doorways, into those bedrooms with children tucked under quilts, children waiting (or not) for sleep to slip under covers too.

I’ve found our bookmark in Little House in the Prairie, opened to where we’d left off last night.

“No! Don’t read us a story!” Child voice calls from a pillow. “Plllleease don’t read us a story. Tell us a story! Tell us a story about you.”

And it strikes me: children need us to do more than read story. They want us to tell story–our personal ones.

The Bible is our Grand Story, drama stacked on drama. And after each meal, the eating of physical bread, our family reads from Scripture, feasts on spiritual bread. I’ve passed bowls and now young hands pass out our “gathering Words,” a set of 8 Bibles of the same version, and our voices read verses in unison, slowly savoring. Storytelling around the table.  The words of the God stories linger in our mouths, and we say them aloud to each other, just as Scripture was first lived for the early church: stories spoken aloud in the gathering.

Together, we read The Story.

But what of the other story children need to nourish souls, minds? Won’t we have to tell our own stories, how our lives, today, and God intersect?

This living in story, God’s story and ours, is Epic Parenting, and it’s the way of Jesus: “The followers came to Jesus and asked, “Why do you use stories to teach the people?” (Matt. 13:10)

Jesus didn’t lead by lecturing. He didn’t sermonize, pontificate, moralize or summarize.  He knew well what as a parent I too often forget: Lecturing grinds away at faith.

Simply, Jesus told stories and let the stories alone speak. Because a story’s beauty and potency is twofold, doubly powerful.

  1. First, a story gives children a practical prototype. In seeing, hearing, visualizing how Biblical truth reacts when it hits the air of this earth, our fallen flesh, story offers a life simulator like no other. Children see God’s principles test driven. The ethereal becomes concrete; not only does story breathe three-dimensional life into doctrine, but the story prototype now offers a way for children to imitate.
  2. Secondly, the story-prototype powerfully prompts.  Any fact or principle that enters into our brains wrapped in emotion is more likely to be remembered.  Thus, while the emotions of a story deeply move, they actually offer the greatest hope of remembering truth and being changed by it. The prompt offered by the story’s prototype ultimately inspires children to live in new ways.

Epic Parenting, parenting out of story, both in the pages of Scripture and the warp of our lives, is potent stuff for our children not only because it’s a faith prototype and a prompt to live the faith, but it is peripateo, the way faith’s robes are passed from generation to the next. Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 urges, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children, talk about them when you sit at home and walk along the road.”

Practical and participatory, telling God’s story, both in Scripture and in our lives, is peripateo, the Greek word for walking–teaching through story as a natural outflow of our talking and sitting and walking with our children.

Epic parenting is storytelling around our togetherness –  about what God wrote during this morning’s errands,  during our vacation last year, from our own childhoods. No curriculum, classes or other paraphernalia necessary. Just a willingness to listen to our lives and tell the whole of God’s epic–the parchment story and personal stories.

God says our lives, tarnished and tainted as the characters that traipse through Scripture, are nothing short of living epistles (2 Cor. 3:3); our lives, lines He  reads as His very own poetry. (Poiema in the Greek  of Eph. 2:10).

Is it any wonder then that our children want us to tell the stories God writes on our days?

In fading light, I lay the storybook of Laura and Mary and Baby Carrie down on my lap. And children prop up on pillows, ready for a true, real-time epic, and slowly words come …. Because we love to tell the story.

©2009, Ann Voskamp

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