A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children… Proverbs 13:22
Stories are powerful. They have a unique way of speaking to us and shaping who we are. Stories are indeed a means of discipleship. That is why I believe storytelling is essential to the flourishing of marriages and families. I have found this to be increasingly true in my own life as I have grown from boy to man and from to husband to father.
Let me tell you a story that profoundly shaped my life and my view of what I wanted for my marriage.
When I was a little boy, my cousins and I would sometimes stay overnight with my grandparents. But on one particular evening, our parents were all going I-can’t-remember-where, and my grandparents were unavailable. It worked out that we would stay with my great grandparents, Papa Buddy and Mamma Evelyn.
This was special because usually Papa Buddy and Mamma Evelyn’s spacious ranch-style house signaled Christmas, as that was the first place the Musgrove clan would gather to celebrate and open presents on Christmas Eve. We rarely went there outside of holidays—until this particular night.
My cousins and I were in the den watching a movie (Three Ninjas, for those of you looking to increase the nostalgia factor) when my Papa Buddy and Mamma Evelyn came in to check on us. I can’t remember how it happened, but it wasn’t long before the TV was off, the lights turned on, and Buddy and Evelyn began to show us how to dance.
There we were, a pack of 8-year-old kids hanging over the back of the couch, watching our great grandparents dance to the tune of Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls.” Looking back, I imagine in that moment they may have forgotten we were even there. They were gazing at each other and smiling in complete enjoyment that can only come from having shared many years together.
String of Pearls
The mental picture of this scene has stayed with me all these years. It was the first time I caught a glimpse of what I wanted for my adult life. Even at the age of 8, I was touched by the powerful image of a man and woman who had danced through years of life together. They still enjoyed each other; it was apparent to me, even then. They still knew how to banter and laugh and “cut a rug.”
That’s what I wanted. Even as a young boy, I knew I wanted that connection for the rest of my life.
My Papa Buddy and Mamma Evelyn both passed away some time ago. But that night, nearly 25 years ago, remains one of my most powerful memories from childhood. It’s a master story moment for me.
It gave me a faithful snapshot, something to shoot for, something to attain. My great grandparents showed me in that moment that it was possible to be in love (and happy) with one person for the rest of your life. The precious pearl of their marriage made me want to add my own pearl to that same cord of faithfulness.
Years later, my Papa Buddy was featured in The Daily Oklahoman, as well as People Magazine, because he’d attended every single high school football game in his adopted hometown for 50 years—an unprecedented streak. Talk about loyalty. But the reporters from People captured his gift of loyalty best when they wrote about his marriage:
It was in 1933 that Musgrove's future wife, Evelyn, spotted him at a social and asked why he wasn't dancing. "So I asked her to dance," he says, "and I've been dancing with her ever since."
That’s what I want for Jenny and me—that human picture of the mystery of the gospel, the never-ending dance of Christ and His Bride. It’s a story I strive to live in, and it will be a master story I tell my sons about their great-great grandparents.
What are the stories that you tell? What stories or pictures of commitment keep you going? What stories will your children and grandchildren remember about you? In both intentional and unintentional moments, we pass on our stories to the people we love most because we know and understand their significance and power. May our stories be well-crafted and worth repeating, echoing the faithfulness of God to each generation.