Over the course of our lives everything changes. When we are little the world is a big wide wonderful place to explore. Everything is new and exciting...something to behold. There is wonder everywhere we look, and nothing is too big or too small to explore. Anything from flowers and rocks to animals and other kids. Many of us have happy go lucky early years. We play and get loved on and grow and learn. The luckiest ones also get introduced to Jesus. And so begins our journey. As we grow school begins. We meet other kids. We learn words and colors and numbers and rules. We learn games and that it hurts when we fall in the gravel of the playground. But that doesn’t keep us from trying again. If we are lucky, we have parents or grandparents who help us fail well. They do not try to fix everything for us. And we grow knowing that if everything doesn’t go as we would like, the world will not come to an end. It builds confidence and character. If we are lucky there will be adults in our lives who will take the time to invest in our lives. They will support us and cheer us on, even if we come in third or tenth or dead last. And if we are really lucky, they will bring us to Sunday school, and we will learn that it was Noah that had the ark and Moses who parted the Red Sea. It gets confusing because they both involve water!
As we grow as kids and then youth a funny thing happens. The grandparents we thought were invincible all of a sudden get old and sometimes fragile. They don’t love us any less but that can’t play like they once did. And our parents, who once were our world suddenly don’t look as big as they did when we were little. And when we reach our teen years, we realize they aren’t really all that smart after all. And some of them seem like dinosaurs. They embarrass us and we would rather not be seen with them. But some of us get lucky and our parents or grandparents have taken a Herculean amount of time investing in our lives and our parents aren’t stupid. They are our coaches, teachers, cheerleaders and guiding lights. And if we are really lucky, they have been spending time with us in God’s Word, reading with us and helping us understand what the Bible says. They ask us about confirmation or youth group, and they want to help us connect to Jesus. Because they made a promise in front of God and everybody when we were baptized, they would do that. It is hard work, but it is the most important gift they can give us besides their love.
Parents always say for us to stop growing and getting older, but we feel that way about them too. What I wouldn’t give for one more day with my grandmother. We grow older and go off to school, a heart wrenching thing for our parents and freedom for us. But often we learn just how good we had it at home. Meanwhile our grandparents may start joining the church triumphant. Part of our youth has gone. But we know, because people have been investing faith in us, that since we believe in Jesus, we will get to see those loved ones again. That brings a measure of comfort. But no one will ever make grandma’s famous recipe again just like her even though they have the recipe.
Our lives move on. We get a real job. Maybe we find a life partner. Perhaps we have kids, and the cycle begins again. Parents grow older. Perhaps there is illness, chronic or that which leads to an early death. When challenges arrive, we reach for the phone to call them to ask, “What would you do?”, and then realize they won’t answer. Some of us are lucky. We have had a village of folks who have sown into our lives. They have taught us how to love, laugh, cheer and share. And if we are really lucky, they have introduced us to Jesus. Now it is our turn to do the same for the next generation. Look at how all of that has enriched our lives. Why would we give the next in line any less?!
Sometimes cruel diseases overtake our loved ones. We watch as cancer eats away at them. They suffer mightily with untreatable pain. Or we watch them disappear slowly before our eyes. The once strong parent is now speaking things that make no sense. Sometimes they are happy go lucky. My mom had chickens running down the hallways of our house! Sometimes they simply withdraw from the world. And other times they become mean, angry, spiteful and hateful. And it is hard to love them let alone be in the same room with them. This is when it is hard, painful, agonizing. It is also a privilege for us. They cared for us when we couldn’t care for ourselves. They wiped snotty noses and wiped behinds. They cooked macaroni and cheese when we were sick...every day. We may well end up doing some of those same things for the ones who have given of themselves for us. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to do that. It doesn’t matter if it is hard. It is the right thing to do.
We are called to love one another. That is who we are and that is what we do. And through it all...God gets the glory.
In His grip,
Pastor Matt W.