Growing up, I never knew how much it meant.
Bedtime approached, my brother and I brushed our teeth, crawled into bed, and listened to mom as she read a story. At the time it was part of the routine. I knew it was a part that I liked, I knew that when it didn't happen something just wasn't right, but beyond that I can't say that I thought much about it.
Later on I began to realize that something more was happening. I went off to college and became very involved with Christian groups on campus. As I began interacting with Christians from a number of different backgrounds, I was very surprised to discover that many of them, despite the fact that they had been far more involved in church youth groups and other religious activities than I was prior to college, knew very little of the Biblical stories. They knew a lot more one-verse quotes than I did, but the stories were oddly missing.
These Biblical stories occupied the majority of the content my mother read to us. She didn't have any devotion plan that she followed, she didn't spend a lot of time interpreting the text or drawing lessons from it. She just read the stories.
I began to realize that my mother had given me a great gift. She had given me Christianity, not as a moral system, not as a plan for life improvement, but as a story. A story of a God that loves His people. A God that did not exist off in the mists of myth but made Himself known in very real ways at very real points in history. As my understanding of God's Word and the faith that it delivers continues to grow, I realize more and more that I could not have been given any greater foundation than the one that was placed under me by my mother, as she read me stories.
If the gift ended there it would be a fantastic one, but it gets better.
As we planned my mother's funeral, we went through a long list of facts. I was still numb, so the whole process stirred about as much emotion as filling out a credit card application. Where she was born, where she went to school, who she worked for, what organizations she had joined. This is the sort of stuff they collect for the obituary. According to the next day's paper, this would be my mother's life in a nutshell. It felt woefully inadequate. When we came to the end of the standard questions, the woman from the funeral home asked, "Is there anything else?"
We all blanked.
What do you say about a woman who more than anything was defined by being a mother, a wife, a sister, and a daughter. A woman whose greatest acts were nothing that most people would consider newsworthy. Acts like changing diapers, doing laundry, visiting the nursing home and...
"She always read a..."
Suddenly I couldn't finish. Looking back it was the first time after her death I actually cried. The full impact of the gift my mother had given me became evident. It was more than an intellectual foundation for my world view, and so much more than a comfortable bedtime routine. She had given me what was most precious to her. She had given the story rooted in the past but so powerful that it is now a reality in my present.
This is the story of humanity, of our creation for greatness shattered by our rebellion. The story of a God revealing Himself through His chosen people only to be rejected by them again and again. It is the story that always alludes to a coming hero, one who could write our wrongs once and for all. It is the story of Jesus, God in the flesh, the sum and substance of all the stories that led to the climax of history as this hero laid down His life to pay for all the sin and hate and hurt that we bring upon ourselves and our world. It is the story of Him rising again, defeating death and proclaiming that His story be taken to the entire world.
This is the story that I know read to my daughter, and the gift that my mother gave me moves on.
Thanks again Mom.