There has been no one who has influenced my spiritual life more than my grandparents. I was blessed to have God-fearing grandparents on both sides who showed me what it meant to have a relationship with Christ. They showed what the fruits of the Spirit looked like when they were lived out in a person. The pivotal realizations in my early years when I came to an understanding about Truth can all be traced back to moments with them.
I was born and raised in Arkansas, the earliest parts of my childhood in a small town with the population of about 1,500 people. There were just a handful of churches and everyone knew who was a member at each one. As far back as I can remember, church was a part of my life and my earliest memories contain an awareness of God. I can remember praying to God when I was very young (maybe three or four) about something profound like me asking God why He didn’t give me something I wanted. While, of course, my little brain couldn’t comprehend much about God and who He was in my life, I accepted that He was with me all the time everywhere I went. I also knew that he loved me. This has been my reality and I have become more thankful for it everyday. I treasure that fact that I have known about God for my whole life and walked with Him through the majority of it.
Of course, as I grew up, I worked out my own faith and what I believe. I discovered and struggled through my experiences, through leaders in my life, and by reading and researching. Most importantly, God has allowed me to abide in Him and He has shown me His Truth. I have been rebellious, content, legalistic, doubting, too open, too closed, far away, close, and then circled back. And, by no means, do I consider myself to have arrived anywhere. I will continuously wrestle things out until I go to heaven. Still, I find myself coming back to simple Truths and ways of life that I witnessed in the lives of my grandparents.
My mother’s father had this spot on his big dining table where his Bible remained open. He would sit and spend a good part of his days reading his Bible and books written by pastors like Adrian Rogers and Charles Stanley. I can still picture him leaned over with his brown-framed glasses on reading. Although we had several conversations about God and heaven, that I will forever treasure, I believe I learned more from that simple visual of his open Bible sitting on that table more than anything else. Seeing that it was a part of his daily life and knowing that what he read on those pages formed him as a person affected me more than I may realize even now. He has passed away and my family no longer owns his house, which I could write a book about the wonderful memories therein. I often take the time to visualize the entire house, so as to not forget, and I always see that Bible sitting there- open with things underlined. From his example, I learned that God’s word is what sustains us- truly sustains us. It is our source of hope and strength and knowledge. I got the blessing of seeing, firsthand, the power that the Bible can have in a life.
My father’s mother also had a deep impact on my spirit. We would sit on the front porch out in the country and she would listen to my questions about God and patiently answer them. She would explain things to me in very plain ways. Her faith is a simple one. She loves Jesus. She would encourage me to consider God and all He has for us. Any connections I made were cheerfully reinforced. I think the room she gave me to vocalize the things that I was trying to figure out was priceless. I knew that no matter what I expressed, it would be met with either happy confirmation or gentle correction. It was easy to explore out loud. Everyone needs those spaces where they feel safe to work things out.
These are just little pictures that show a fraction of the influence two of my grandparents had on me. As a parent now, I think about what it will look like for me to shepherd my son’s soul. I pray that I will lead him to God and that he will see things in me that can only be explained by the indwelling of God. I consider it the greatest privilege of my life to be his mother and love him and teach him, but there are those overwhelming moments when I realize that his little eyes and ears are now old enough to know when I fail. Then I remind myself that he will always see me fail and that it’s the times when love breaks through in our lives that will matter. It will be the obedience and discipline grown out of love that he will take note of. It will be the way that I communicate, with grace and openness, the character of God. It will be how he sees that a relationship with Jesus is everything in life and after life that will change and mold his heart. By the grace of God, I was shown about faith in beautiful ways and it is my hope that I can do the same for my family.