By Pastor Glenn Pease
Almost everybody you know in the Bible became a grandparent. But since the term is not used in the Bible we tend to ignore this fact and seldom think of people as grandparents, and of children as grandchildren. When I read the blessing at the end of Psa. 128 that says may you live to see your children's children, I realized that is the way the Hebrews described grandchildren. They are your children's children. So I looked up children in the concordance and realized it would take many hours of searching to find all the places where children's children are mentioned. So I typed it into the computer and it told me instantly that grandchildren are referred to ten times.
The one thing the Bible makes clear is that grandparents are often the determining factor in the righteousness and love of God being passed down from generation to generation. If grandpa and grandma do not care about the will of God, and it is not a priority in their lives, the flame of faith can go out, and the torch will not pass to the grandchildren. It can often skip a generation, and children may rebel and depart from the faith. We see it often in the Bible. But if grandparents are faithful the grandchildren can pick up where they leave off, and they can keep the fire of faith burning.
Psa. 103:17-18 says, "But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him and His righteousness with their children's children-with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts." Grandparents play a vital role in keeping God's kingdom going and going. In the Lord's prayer we pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This prayer is answered in large measure because of godly grandparents.
When you read the biographical writings of Christians it is amazing how often you read that it was the grandparents who most impacted them for Christ. For example, here is the testimony of Dale Evans Rogers: "My childhood hero was my Granddaddy Wood of Uvalde, Texas. As I look back now, I still believe he was one of the finest and most generous men I ever knew. The people of Uvalde, a small, typical Southwestern Texas town, dearly loved and respected my grandfather Wood. He was tall, broad-shouldered with a thin frame-a no-nonsense man, but I especially recall the warmth and kindness in his eyes. Two memories especially stand tall in mind: During my high school days I loved to play the piano and sing for him because he was so appreciative and complimentary. And then I recall the nightly prayer time in his bedroom. All of the family was expected to attend, and we did! His goodnight prayer sent us all off to bed with the feeling we had been with God. Granddaddy loved unselfishly, and was greatly loved in return. He taught me much about love. It is true he wasn't much of a talker, but he was a real doer."
This is a very common testimony, and I have the same one. It was not my mother and father that most influenced me for Christ. It was my godly grandparents. There was also an uncle that influenced me, and he too was a grandpa. Margaret Mead, the world famous author, made this statement: "The closest friends I have made all through life have been people who also grew up close to a loved and loving grandmother and grandfather."
One of the reasons for this being so true for so many is because of the very nature of the relationship of grandparents and grandchildren. Parents have to be more Old Testament in relation to a child. There is a lot of law involved in the training of a child. But grandparents can focus on grace. They are more New Testament in their relationship to the grandchildren. A high school youth said, "When my father says, 'you are so dumb,' that makes me feel just terrible. So when I can, I go to see my grandmother and tell her about it. Then she says, 'I think what you did is not so good. But you're O. K.'"
Parents often have to be involved in discipline, and justice often leads to conflict. Kids feel they are being treated unfairly, and often it is true because parents are not omniscient and really do not know the degree of guilt in each child. On the other hand, grandparents can focus on mercy and give love and understanding even to the guilty child. Many a rebel who cannot get along with their parents is saved for the kingdom by grandparents who do not need to deal with the tensions from the same perspective. It is because their role is so different that they are so important for balance.
Many Christian parents do not know how to handle a rebel child. They feel obligated to condemn them if they fall into some serious sin. This role is not always out of line, but it can be so severe that they fail to mix in a measure of mercy. Grandparents can often make up for this imbalance and give the child the hope of being restored and loved again. Part of the problem of our culture and the breakdown of families is that grandparents are not what they use to be. Today we have self-help books, pre-marriage counseling, marriage enrichment, and seminars on every subject, but all of them together cannot do what a godly set of grandparents use to do for families. They use to be living demonstrations of love and loyalty to God and family, and this is often missing today.
Godly grandparents are worth more than all the seminars man can ever produce, for they are God's method of keeping balance in life. Paul in Titus 2 reveals that he is convinced that older men and women are the key people in keeping families growing in love, and being pleasing to God. If you want to help the younger generation to be better, the best place to start is with grandparents. I know this is an over simplification, for our culture has so changed that the good old days are gone. Grandparents are a different breed in modern life. Some anonymous poet put this change into poetry:
In the dim and distant past,
When life's tempo wasn't fast,
Grandmas use to rock and knit,
Crochet, sew, and baby sit.
When the kids were in a jam,
They could always count on gram.
In the age of gracious living,
Grandma was the gal for giving.
Grandma now is in the gym
Exercising to keep slim;
She's off touring with the "bunch"
Taking clients out to lunch.
Driving North to ski or curl,
All her days are in a whirl,
Nothing seems to stop or block her
Now that grandmas off her rocker.
I think the point is, if grandparents are no different than parents, which is often the case, then the children do not get the benefit of what grandparents can give. This leaves the whole family structure as dysfunctional, and everybody loses. It is important for grandparents to be different. Children to quickly conclude that grandparents are just old fashioned and their ways are obsolete. This leads to much conflict which is unnecessary.
Judith Viorst writes about her conflict with her mother about how to raise the kids. She said, "Some of us may have to ask ourselves if we are willing, when grandmother is the sitter, to let her handle our children her way, even when her way is not ours." This is hard because parents fear that the differences of grandparents will be harmful, and so there is resistance and conflict. But wise parents will let grandparents be free to love the way they feel comfortable in loving. The differences will be positive and not negative. Grandparents are suppose to be different, and the difference will be beneficial to the kids.
This works both ways, and so grandparents need to have a hands off attitude, and let the parents be different too, and not try to force them to do things their way. The Bible says a man is to leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. The implication is that each couple is to be independent and to formulate their own ways of loving and raising children. Whether is it better than the way they were raised is not the issue. The issue is, are they free and independent, and able to decide for themselves what is best for them.
Grandparents cause most trouble in families where they try to force their children to duplicate them, and try to control their decisions. The most flagrant example of this is the cartoon where an older couple is seated at the table with a younger couple, who are obviously their children, and the older woman says, "We've decided not to have grandchildren." There are many decisions in life that are not up to grandparents, and the sooner they learn this the happier everyone will be. This often calls for a lot of tongue biting, but the experts say don't even give advice unless you are asked, and even then do so sparingly. This will prevent more uncivil wars than any other bit of wisdom.
It is an illusion that because we lived a certain way that it is the best way for our children too. Life changes, and there are so many differences that what we did may not be the best for our children. Seeking conformity to your pattern of life is saying that we are superior and you are inferior. This is offensive. The best relationships come to people who treat each other as equals. I read of a 7 year old boy who was told by his parents he was not to eat any milk products. Grandpa thought this was a bunch of poppycock. He said that milk is good for everyone. One Saturday afternoon he bought the boy an Eskimo Pie. The boy had an attack of asthma and had to be taken to the emergency room. Grandpa should have listened to his children, for they often know what is best for their kids, even if it does not make sense to us.
Gram and Gramps are not to be grumps in trying to keep on raising their raised kids. That job is over, and their job now is to make sure the grand kids have pleasurable experiences. In his book Then God Created Grandparents And It Was Very Good, Charlie Shedd says that one of the main functions of grandparents is to make life fun. He quotes a grandchild's perspective, "My grandmother was my very best friend. I mean my best friend ever. The winter before she died she came to live where we did. Only she had an apartment on the corner. Every night I would get off the school bus and stop to see her. She would always be waiting for me by the window. Then we ate some cookies, had hot chocolate, lemonade, played games. We played "Kings and Queens" and sometimes animals. She could meow just like a cat, and bark almost like a dog. We also played movie stars and people from our favorite TV programs. I could talk about everything around my grandma and imagine anything. She wouldn't laugh at me. Grandparents are the most fun, because they aren't afraid to pretend."
I can remember as a young boy always being excited when I knew grandma and grandpa were coming to visit. It was because they always brought us things, but it was also because they were fun. They gave us good things to eat and they made us laugh. All my memories are positive about my grandparents, and this means they fulfilled their role well in my life.
The Psalmist says it is one of God's great blessings to live long enough to see your grandchildren. Let's remember that this is to be a two way street. It is to be a blessing to them also that you live to see them. This means you must play a positive role in their lives. The key elements for having the kind of impact God wills are faith and fun. These are the two things grand kids most remember. Billy Graham reflects on his grandparents and says that long before he was saved he was led in the right direction by their example. The testimony of many in the kingdom of God is that it was grandparents that most influenced them to come to Christ.
Dale Evans Rogers in her book Grandparents Can says that they way we do this is not by being perfect but by helping our grand kids see that parents are not perfect, but they are trying to do their best. She tells of the many mistakes she made as a mother. She accused her kids of things and punished them only to find out later that they were innocent. Sharing her mistakes makes her grand kids understand their parents better. They come to recognize their parents make mistakes, but this does not hinder their love. Grandparents are to be aids to the parents, and help kids understand how hard it is to be wise and right all the time.
Grandparents still make mistakes and they need to admit it to themselves and the kids. The National Safely Council reports that 17% of all prescription drugs ingested by children belong to their grandparents. No grandparent plans this, but it happens because kids are hard to watch every second. It takes forethought to be good grandparents. You have to prepare the environment for their coming, and put things away that can do harm. It is not all fun and games. There is also work involved. Life is seldom fun without some work of preparation, and so grandparents have to work at being fun.
It is interesting to read the prophets and their prophecy about the ideal life of those who are faithful to Him. We read in Zech. 8:4-5, "Once again shall old men and old women sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each leaning on a stick because of their great age; and the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls, playing in the streets." The good life is old and young together in a setting that is filled with fun.
Grandparents and grandchildren are the two extremes that make the picture ideal. Everybody else in between is there also, but these two groups give it completeness. No picture of the good life is adequate without grandparents and grandchildren. God drew this picture, and we know from experience that God is right. Prov. 17:6 says, "Children's children are a crown to the aged." When a grandchild is born a new king and queen are born as well-Grandpa and Grandma. They now reign over an empire and not just a family. The grandchild represents the potential for their family to become a kingdom characterize by faith and fun. May God help us be faithful in our role as grandparents.