Catharine duBois, my great-great grandmother to the eighth great, never heard of crisis management. But if she had not honored the Lord in the greatest crisis of her life, I would not be here today.

One day in 1663, Minnisink Indians swept down from the Catskill Mountains, killed several inhabitants of the little settlement now known as New Paltz, New York, and took a number of women and children captive. Among them were Catharine duBois and her infant daughter, Sara. For ten weeks they were held captive in the mountains, while search parties looked for them in vain.

Certain they had avoided reprisal, the Indians decided to celebrate their success by burning Catharine and Sara. A cubical pile of logs was arranged, upon which the bound mother and daughter were placed. When the Indians lit the torch to ignite the logs, all of Catharine’s decendants were about to be annihilated with her.

How we die is a profound reflection of how we live. A life-threatening crisis somehow distills all our theology into a single pungent drop.

A most human response at that moment would have been for Catharine to scream at her tormentors, curse them for her suffering, or even curse God (as Job’s wife advised him in his life-threatening crisis; Job 2:9).

Instead, she burst into song, turning the foreboding Catskill forest into a cathedral of praise with a Huguenot hymn she had learned in France. The words were from Psalm 137, “There our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ ” (v. 3, NIV).

The Minnisink Indians, of course, had not asked her for a song, but they were now so captivated with Catharine’s singing that they demanded another song, then another, and then still another. (Psalm 137 proved prophetic!) And while she sang “the songs of Zion,” her husband, Louis, and his search party burst upon the scene and rescued her (and me!).

I have pondered the meaning of this event many times. Like each of us, Catharine was the narrow neck of the funnel where heritage and legacy meet. We draw upon her heritage, much of it bought with a heavy price by those we have never seen. And the way we bring that heritage to bear upon our present circumstance determines the legacy we bestow on unborn generations. Catharine could not have known that her decision about how to die would tell her succeeding generations much about how they should live. Nor can we know how some decision today will affect generations to come.

Who cares how one woman chooses to die in a lonely Catskill forest? Who cares, indeed? Eight generations have cared, and I suspect at least another eight will care as well.

At the burning bush, where Moses was managing his own crisis, the Lord said, “This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation” (Exod. 3:15). Like individuals, generations do not stand alone but draw faithfulness or unfaithfulness to God from earlier generations, and bequeath their legacy to generations to come.

The God I prayed to this morning is the same God Catharine sang to eight generations ago, the same God who will listen to one of my faithful descendants eight generations from now. The God who heard Catharine’s Huguenot hymn 324 years ago hears my prayer of thanksgiving today for her faithfulness. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and Catharine duBois—is my God and the God of my descendants. He transcends all generations.

My concern today is that I will faithfully fulfill my role as that narrow neck of the funnel, for the faith of some young man or woman 324 years from now may come to focus on how Christianly I handle a momentary crisis this afternoon.

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