Saturday, February 5, 2022

Bridges to our past. . .

As a grandparent I am always tempted to make my time with my grandchildren fun.  Who does not want to be remembered as a fun papa or grandma?   But grandparents are for more than fun.  They serve as bridges to a child's past, even more so than their parents.  Parenthood is laced with so many responsibilities -- made ever more complicated and consuming during a pandemic.  But grandparents are free from having to deal with many of those and that freedom exists for a good purpose.  We can provide roots to our children that go back more than one generation and a bridge to their own history.  Of course, they will not realize or value that bridge as children.  Who does?  But as time goes on we equip them to remember and remembering to renew their place as part of the came before them.

As a child I did not know this.  I am not sure any kid does.  I loved my grandparents and they were an almost daily part of my life.  Overtime, I began to realize that they were a people with a story and that their story was also mine.  As is always the case, by the time I fully comprehended this, they were gone and I could not question them or probe into that history anymore.  It is probably no different for any kid who grows up.  But the role of grandparents is not simply to babysit or be fun playmates, it is to teach the grandchildren even before they grow up to know and appreciate the story of their lives.

None of us can reach too many generations ahead of us but we can address a generation after our children with the profound influence of a living faith that has aged well and remained faithful.  We can give to our children's children the example of values that endure whether they are in vogue or not.  We can instill in our children respect for life, for their family, for each other, and for themselves as children of God.  We can give them a sense of their past, anchors in a world of change to remind them that they stand in link and line with those who went before.

I to this very day regret that my vocation as a pastor left me with little choice about where I was to serve and how that distance affected my own children's relationships with their grandparents.  Knowing that, I have been given the opportunity to be involved with my grandchildren in a way my own parents could not.  No, it was not like they were strangers or my kids did not spend alone time with them -- they did.  One of my kids lives less than an hour away from where I grew up and the roots of my family remain.  But they were not geographically close enough to do what I am able to do.  Part of that task is to support the parents -- a task that will become inevitably more difficult as they become teenagers -- but that is years down the road for now.

My wife is the smart one on this.  She has researched our ancestry and knows my family better than I do.  She puts the fruit of her work into albums and scrapbooks that give a more permanent reminder of the things we told our kids and tell our grandchildren.  I am very grateful for her work.  Children need anchors but in this time of rapid and constant change an anchor is even more important!  We know who we are not by looking inside ourselves but by looking at our families, the people from whom we came and by whom we learned faith, values, truth, and character.  She reminds me of so many things I had forgotten and she encourages this duty of passing on to our children and grandchildren a bridge to their past.  She reminds me that the best we can give to our grandchildren is not a fun memory or the latest toys or gadgets to distract them but the story of their families -- of their history, their courage, their strength, and their faith.  I only wish I had learned this lesson sooner so I could have learned better from my own grandparents and I pray that I will not soon forget this instruction as the brief days of my grandchildren's youth pass before me and I age away from them finally into death.

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