By Pastor Glenn Pease
Professor Gordon Rupp, the British historian, was asked how the church could survive the decades of persecution and communist propaganda in Russia. His answer was, "It's largely due to grandparents." The communists made the big mistake of thinking that because the church was only full of old people it had no future. They failed to realize that grandparents have an impact on their grandchildren. The old Russian grandparents passed their faith on to their grandchildren, and that is why there is a new revival of Christianity in Russia.
We often look at the masses of youth in our schools and colleges and say that they are our future, and it is truly so, but let us not forget that our future is also in the past because the older people pass on their old values and faith to those masses of youth. Paul recognized this in the life of young Timothy. He loves Timothy dearly, but he recognized that his gifted young Christian servant was not merely a product of his own making. He had a heritage that went back to grandma Lois. She was the one who had faith in God, and she passed that faith on to her daughter Eunice, and together they instilled it in Timothy. He was not a self-made man. He was a product of a godly heritage that came to him from his grandmother.
The Bible is filled with grandparents. All of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament were grandparents, and practically every famous person in the Bible was a grandfather or grandmother. Every person in the genealogy of Jesus was a grandparent. The grandfather of Jesus is mentioned 3 times. A major portion of the Bible was written by grandfathers. But Lois is the only person in the Bible actually given the label of grandmother. There is one in the Old Testament given the name grandmother as well. Her name was Moaca the grandmother of King Asa, but she was a bad example. So Lois is the only named grandmother in the Bible with a positive influence.
Her grandson Timothy is one of the major New Testament servants of God, and Paul's two letters to him are a major part of the New Testament. We do not know a lot about Lois, but her faith touched her family, and through her family has touched all of history. She became an ideal example of the value and influence of grandparents, and on this grandparents day we want to focus on the role they play in God's plan for the family. It is of interest to note that the Greek word for grandmother is mamme. It is very close to mommy, and from which we get the term of respect, which is mom.
Grandparents should be addressed with terms of affection and respect. A Swedish proverb says, "Where there is a grandmother in the house the children always have a friend." In a world where children in greater numbers than ever have to endure the trials of divorced parents, and multiple kinds of abuse, the grandparents often are the glue that keeps together any semblance of continuity. If kids loose the present, but still have a pass to tie into, they can bridge the gap to the future, but rob them of their grandparents too and they are cut off and abandoned. That is why the courts in recent years have given grandparents the right of visitation so that no matter how messed up the parents are, the children can still develop a healthy relationship to grandma and grandpa.
Rita Fuentes received this letter from her grandson that illustrates the impact of grandparents, and one way we can let them know of our love.
"Dear Nana and Pop-pop:
I was reading a book written by one of my favorite poets, Rod McKuehn, and all of the sudden the phone rang. Immediately I scanned my desk top for some kind of bookmark and settled on a wallet-sized photo of you two from 1983.
After finishing my phone conversation, I opened the book and saw those two familiar faces saving my place. And then it occurred to me that the two of you have been saving a place for me for a long time now.
So basically, in celebration of Grandparents Day, I decided to let you know that I have a special place saved in my heart for both of you."
When the Star Tribune back in 1991 asked for letters of affection from 11 thousand students they did not write about boyfriends and girlfriends, or even about mom and dad, but mainly about grandparents. One of the main values grandchildren love is the escape from legalism they experience in their home. Grandparents will often let rules slide. This is called spoiling the grand kids, but it is great fun for everyone involved. When I was a young boy I was not allowed to drink coffee, but grandma would put a little in the bottom of a glass and then fill it up with milk. I felt proud to be able to drink coffee at grandma's house. There is no such rule there about no cookies before supper. All of the forbidden treats are available at any time at grandma's house.
It is part of the fun of the young and the old to escape for a while from the legalism of everyday life. It makes grandparents feel like liberators. Freedom is a gift that grandparents give to children. They need the discipline of rules and consistency that parents give them, but they also need to taste the freedom to explore, which grandparents often allow on a different level than they get at home. Grandparents help them see the bigger picture of their mom and dad. They are adults who were once children and they did a lot of crazy things as kids too. Grandparents tell about all of the silly pranks of their parents. This is great fun and gives the kids perspective. They also know they are loved when they blow it, for blowing it is part of the family tradition.
In the Old Testament there were cities of refuge where guilty people could run to for protection. Many children see the home of their grandparents as their city of refuge. Even the guilty need a place to flee to where they can be accepted in their guilt until they can work out their problem, and grandparents can provide this refuge. I can remember running across the field to grandmas house when I felt rejected at home.
Grandparents focus on making life fun for children, and teach that being spiritual and committed to Christ does not mean a loss of enjoyment and pleasure. They do not demand as much as parents, but give a lot out of sheer grace, and ask nothing in return. They illustrate the love of God who gave His Son while we were still sinners. The free gifts of love from grandparents leads to a sense of gratitude in grandchildren. They have to get into their 20's or 30's before they fully appreciate all that mom and dad have done for them, but they can feel it early toward grandpa and grandma, and that leads them to want to do what pleases their grandparents. Grandparents provide an alternate atmosphere for children. They do not carry the daily burden of raising children, and so they are more free to provide an atmosphere of more fun.
Millet, the French artist, who gave us the Angelus and The Man With A Hoe, and some 20 other works that are in the Louvre in Paris had a godly grandmother. At his wedding she said to him, "Remember my Francois, that you are a Christian before you are a painter. Never sacrifice on the altar of Baal." He promised he would not use his gift for any evil, and he kept that promise to his grandmother. Her standards became his, and like Lois, she passed on her faith to her grandson.
I read of Darwin Carlisle, the girl who refused to die. Her mother abandoned her at age 9 and left her in an unheated attic for several days. When she was found her legs were so frostbitten they had to be amputated. Here was a case where great grandma took over. She was fitted with artificial legs, and great grandma went to court to get custody. She gave her great encouragement to overcome her handicap, and in two months Darwin was roller skating and riding a bike. You can never underestimate the influence of grandparents.
We have all been entertained by Bill Cosby. We have his grandfather to thank for that. Bill is a funny guy even off stage, and he loves to tell funny stories. His grandfather was his role model, and he was always clowning around and telling funny stories, and so Bill became a comedian because of this influence. His grandfather usually had a moral point to his stories, and so Bill learned to stick with good clean humor. A grandfather with a less godly sense of humor would have influenced him all together differently.
Grandparents have gone through many hardships and yet because they are faithful in their faith they have a great impact on children. I can remember my grandmother, who had 9 children and who labored from morning till night on the farm, still having time to be faithful in her Bible reading. She even continued to play Christian music on the organ into her 90's. Her faithfulness to the Lord and the church had a great impact on me, for she was an example of persistence in faith. You do not just serve the Lord while you are young, and then back off as you get older. You persist in faith and the labor of love all of your life. This poem by an unknown author fits my grandmother perfectly, and many others as well.
Grandmother, on a winter's day,
Milked the cow and fed them hay,
Slopped the hogs, saddled the mule
And got the children off to school;
Did the washing, mob the floors,
Washed the windows, and did some chores,
Cooked a dish of home-dried fruit,
Pressed her husband's Sunday suit,
Swept the parlor, made the bed,
Baked a dozen loaves of bread,
Split some fire wood, and lugged in
Enough to fill the kitchen bin;
Cleaned the lamps and put in oil,
Stewed some apples she thought would spoil;
Cooked a supper that was delicious
And afterward washed up the dishes;
Fed the cat and sprinkled the clothes,
Mended a basket full of hose;
Then opened the organ and began to play,
"When you come to the end of a perfect day."
I have known Christians who are very embarrassed by the antics of their grandparents when they get so old that their arteries harden. They begin to do things they have never done in their lives. One old godly gentleman began to swear, and he had never used such language in his life. His daughter was mortified, but I assured her that everyone who knew his godly history would recognize that this is the result of his loss of control due to old age. It is not a sign that he is rejecting his faith. A quiet talk with the man revealed he was persisting to the end in his faith, and this deviation from it in his language was not a matter of choice.
The example of persistence is a powerful influence on grandchildren, and if old age weakens that appearance of persistence grandchildren need to realize that this is a matter beyond the control of the person they love. Most of my family were not Christians when I was a child. It was my grandmother's faith that influenced me, and then through me touched my parents. My personal experience confirms history and Scripture. Grandparents make a major difference in this world for the kingdom of God.
Margaret Mead, the world renowned author, wrote, "The closest friends I have made all through life have been people who also grew up close to a loved and loving grandmother or grandfather." This was true for Paul and his dear friend Timothy, and it is our responsibility as grandparents to make it true for those who befriend our grandchildren. We need to pass on our faith so that our grandchildren can pass it on again to the next generation.