Today was Grandparents’ Day at our school. One of the things I love about this day is that it gives me the opportunity to reflect upon and be grateful for the impact of my grandmothers on my life. As I’ve said before, I think that gratefulness is the root of godliness; with my heart, any chance I can get to prompt gratefulness is worth pursuing.
What is it that we love so much about our grandparents? Why is it, years after their passing, that their memory evokes such warm feelings for us? Maybe it’s because they teach us so much about how to live and love in Christ. My dad’s mom, “Grandmother Fort Worth” (Original, huh? Bet you can’t guess where she lived) was always smiling and laughing. When I was little, I thought she was just the happiest lady I knew. As I got older, I learned that life had been tough on her: the Great Depression, war, fortunes gained and lost, marital troubles, a lost grandchild, a lost child. In my youth, educated beyond my wisdom, I considered her smiles, laughter, and jokes to be a coping mechanism, a way of disconnecting herself from her difficult reality. Now, in the wake of her passing, I realize that she simply loved Jesus. She understood that joy didn’t depend on her daily circumstances, on what this life dealt her, but on the fact that she was a child of God, saved by Christ. She taught me most of what I know about true, authentic Christian joy, even though I didn’t realize I was in her classroom until much, much later. Grandparents share their wisdom with us.
Grandmother Tyler (I know, right?) drew up her will in the 1980s, leaving her house here in town to my sister and me when we were teenagers. Everyone thought she was crazy. We grew up in Dallas. She would tell me, “Someday, you’re going to live in Tyler.” Even when she passed away I thought it was nuts: after all, I had just graduated law school and got a job with a Dallas firm. I was going to be a big city lawyer, and rule the world. Until….I met my wife two years later, and we decided to move to Tyler. We moved into that house. And, several years later when God called me to GCS and a 65 percent pay cut, the fact that we owned our house outright was God’s provision for us. My grandmother saw the future a little more clearly than I. When we’re kids, and long-range planning looks like what we’ve got going on for Friday night, grandparents help us see our current circumstances in the light of eternity. They help us “zoom out”, and see that the hurts, the pains, and the joys of our present have much larger, deeper meaning. Grandparents give us perspective.
There was one final, amazing thing about my grandmothers, and probably your grandparents, too: everything I was, and everything I did, was simply wonderful to them. They had absolutely no filter, no jadedness when it came to me. Unlike my parents, who saw me clearly in all of my depravity, my grandparents were completely “into” me, wanting to know what I was doing and where I was going. They would brag to their friends about me, and dress me up and take me over to their friend’s houses when I was in town to show me off. I never experienced total, complete, unconditional acceptance and love in this life as I did from my grandmoms.
So many times, when I’m tempted to look at God’s love as that of a withholding parent, who wants to show me affection but is just waiting for me to “get it right”, I think about how my grandparents loved me. When God looks at me through the eyes of Christ, He loves me totally, completely, without reservation, unconditionally accepting me despite the fact that I am far from perfect. This glimpse, this vision of God’s perfect love, is perhaps a grandparent’s greatest gift. They may be our very best teachers in how to love, and how to be loved, in the shadow of the Cross.