Grand-Parenting That Leaves A Legacy
We are in the middle of a series about working families. We have already considered the role of the mom, kids, parents, and spouses. Today, I want us to look at a role that is just as vital to the family dynamic but oftentimes overlooked.
This week I came across an article titled: Where’s Our Old Fashioned Grandma? The author of the article was talking about the change in our social climate, and what effect that has had on our culture. Let me share bit of what they wrote: The image of the Grandparent has certainly changed over the years. There was a time when you knew a grandparent by their white hair, laugh wrinkles, and relaxed schedule. But in the last 20 years a new version has come on the scene. Now Grandma has left the sewing machine and crochet needles behind. They are stylishly dressed and still actively involved in their career. Grandpa is no longer sitting on his front porch in his rocking chair. Today you will find him driving a sports car on the way to the golf course. There was a time when Grandpa and Grandma were available and present in the life of the family. But today, they will be glad to help when they are not at their job or taking a well deserved vacation. And we are all poorer for it.
I wanted to share that with you this morning because I am not real sure what to do with it. I understand that we all have our own pursuits, and activities that we are involved in. There is no way that I would want to make anyone feel guilty for having a career or other interests. But there is one thing that the author and I agreed on completely; things have changed.
There was time when we all lived on family land. Everyone grew up, got married, and started a life within 5 miles from their parents home. Then, we became more mobile. Soon, folks began to move away to go to college, or because they got a job in another town or state, or like my family they joined the military and went wherever the government needed them. Things changed.
There was a time when someone would ask you, Where are you from, and you would say Anniston, or Oxford, or Talladega. But for many people that has become a harder conversation. I was born in Memphis Tennessee, but I have never considered that home. I grew up in Fort Worth, and San Fransisco, and New Orleans, and Huntsville. I claim those places but none of them were home, there weren’t constant.
But there was a constant, it was found at a table on a little farm in Mississippi. I ate a lot of meals at that table, shelled what seemed like mountains of butter beans, played cards and other games, and had many conversations. There was something special about that table, well maybe not the actual table, but who shared the table with me. My grandparents held and continue to hold a tremendous influence in my life. They were intentional about knowing who I was, and making sure that I knew who they were, because I was not just their grandson, I was their legacy.
There is a really sad passage in the book of Judges 2:10, a passage that I am afraid is becoming truer every day: After those people had died, their children grew up and did not know the LORD or what he had done for Israel. It is no secret that with every generation our young people are leaving the church. Now, I don’t think for one moment they are leaving God, they are leaving the church. I think that we have focused so much on the “what” that we never take the time to explain the “why”. I understand that my parents had to raise a very difficult child. There were many days they expended so much energy working on getting the “what”, the outside behavior, fixed that they didn’t have the energy to discuss the “why” of the behavior. But at that table in Mississippi, that’s where I learned the “why”. That’s where we had the discussions that explained the rational. And it made all the difference.
There are several texts in the Bible where God instructs His children to make sure they pass along the “why” of our faith. The first one comes from the text that was read for us this morning from Exodus 12, when God brought the 10th plague on the nation of Egypt. God instructed the Children of Israel to take a hyssop branch and spread the blood of a lamb over the doorposts. But Moses instructed them to make sure that when your children or grandchildren see what you are doing, to take the time to explain the why. Explain why they were painting their doorposts with blood, explain that the destroyer was coming, and that when He sees the blood he will pass by the house. The adults were called to not only remember what happened, but pass along a legacy of faith by explaining the why of what happened.
One of the great things about folks who have entered the silver years of life is that they serve as living links to the past. They have the ability and the charge from God to intentionally pass along not just the “what” but the “why” of our faith to the generations that are coming behind us. We tend to be focused so much on the form, and God seems to be focused on the heart or the reason. We want to pass on a function while God wants us to pass along a legacy.
Time and time again God instructs one generation to pass along the things He has taught us to the next generation. He wants us to pass along our experience of learning, to share the Godly truths we have learned with the next generation. God is not instructing biological parents to pass along a legacy, He is instructing His Body to pass along a legacy. We all, especially those who have walked with God for a long time, must be aware of our responsibilities to the next generation. Anytime you’re around somebody younger you have a chance to positively influence him or her and you need to take advantage of that opportunity. Whether it’s a kid here at Greenbrier, or a neighborhood kid that needs an older person in his or her life, or someone in your family, God wants you to share your knowledge, wisdom and experience. Another word for that is discipleship, when we invite folks to not watch, but to come and see to come and experience.
There are few things that we can do to meet the needs of the generations that are following us. There are several conversations and lives that need to be modeled so that we can pass along not just the “what” but the “why of our faith”.
First, we can model Wisdom and Knowledge.
The Book of Proverbs, is a next generation letter. It is the wisdom of Solomon passed along to his sons and grandchildren of how to build a legacy of following God, even in those seemingly small circumstances of life. Solomon had the means and ability to do whatever he wanted and His wisdom and wealth were unrivaled. He would later say that he had experienced everything this world and life has to offer: laughter, wine, building cities, planting gardens, he even had his own harem of women. When it came time to pass along the wisdom and knowledge He had gained in this life he says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).
Every generation struggles with this teaching. We need to pass along that the beginning of wisdom and knowledge comes from viewing God with the respect He deserves. We need to build a legacy based on living our lives holding God in the highest estimation, and depending on Him with humble trust. If we can help the next generation settle this issue, their lives will become much less complicated, much less stressed. We are called to model a life of wisdom and knowledge.
Next, we can model character as a moral compass.
By character, I mean morals and ethics and integrity. Those who are older must teach those coming behind them how to be the right kind of person and how to do the right kind of thing, especially in tough situations.
We are seeing what happens to a generation that lacks a moral compass. Gun violence in schools, a general disdain for human life, lack of respect for women, treating children like pawns to be used for our amusement. None of these things are new in our world, but there are times when I look at the younger generation trying to make it in this world and it’s like we have dropped them off in New York and given them a map of Los Angeles. They are stuck following the wrong map because we refused to do the difficult work of passing on biblical principles in their lives.
We need to do the hard work of protecting them from the garbage that is so prevalent in our world. The old adage garbage in, garbage out is so true. We need to help the generations coming behind us, not only stay away from evil but tell them why it is so important for them to remain pure. It’s not enough to tell them to refrain from sin, but explain what sin can do to their lives. We need to live out our character and teach them discernment.
Thirdly, we must model how to deal with difficulty.
Paul writes in Romans: And we are also happy with the troubles we have. Why are we happy with troubles? Because we know that these troubles make us more patient. And this patience is proof that we are strong. And this proof gives us hope. (Romans 5:3-4) I have learned the hard way that maturity doesn’t come with age. It comes with responsibility. Some people are mature at 17 while others aren’t mature at 37. There are some people who have never had to take on responsibility. We have falsely thought that we could protect them from disappointment if we protected them from responsibility. And, now they are out in the world learning about the truth of real difficulty.
We need a balanced approach here; if you go too far to either extreme we will cause more damage than good. The upcoming generations will be confronted with the same unwholesome ideas and suggestions we already face. Our job is to help them filter through those ideas and suggestions without over-sheltering them. We cannot be so strict that we shatter their spirit. But we also don’t want to be so permissive that they live life without boundaries and end up being involved in behavior that is harmful to them and to others.
Finally, we must model what it is to live with conviction.
Convictions are the values you live by, it what we see modeled in the life of Daniel. Remember how he was thrown into the den of lions because he wouldn’t worship the king’s idol. That was conviction! But it didn’t start the day that the decree was made. He had lived by his convictions since he was a young man. In Daniel 1 we read Daniel made up his mind to eat and drink only what God had approved for his people to eat." (Daniel 1:8).
Daniel was probably a teenager, when taken captive to Babylon. But he didn’t give up his convictions just because he was in a foreign land and ungodly people were in control. He decided early on that he would do what God says regardless of the outcome.
Convictions produce passion, and passionate people change the world. It isn’t the person who does what is easy all the time that rises to influence and success in life. It’s the person who has the courage to live by their convictions! We can pass on a heritage of convictions through living a life that models them. We must remember that convictions are “caught” and not “taught.”
What’s Your Purpose?
Acts 13:36 says this about David: “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.” That’s the question our Ssilver generation needs to answer this morning. Are you serving God’s purpose in your generation? We have so many stories of people who began to fulfill their purpose in the silver years of their life. Abraham was 75 when he left Haran to follow God (Genesis 12:4) and Moses was 80 when He began to lead the Children of Israel (Exodus 7:7).
And then there is Caleb. I love the story of Caleb. He was one of the spies who went into the Promised Land and believed they could conquer the land because God was bigger than the giants who lived in the land. Unfortunately, the Children of Israel choose to believe the other 10 spies and as a result God’s people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until that entire generation died. In Joshua 14, we read that Caleb continued to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and now, at the age of 85 they are once again at the border of Canaan, and he says in verse 11: I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. I love what he says next in verse 12: Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as He said.
His concern was not having a condo at Shalom Acres; instead he wanted another whack at the hill country. He was up for a new challenge. What hill country do you need to claim? What mountain does God want you to climb?
Proverbs 13:22 reads, A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children. I don’t believe that Solomon was talking about money. Let your grandchildren, the younger generation see you pray for them, not just for the food at a meal, but for them by name. Talk about the Lord when you’re with them. Invite them to join you in worship and let them see that you take it seriously. Demonstrate a life of character, let them see you make difficult decisions and invite them to take a stand along side of you.
If you’re in your silver years, seek out the younger generation. Understand that there are many kids that live away from their biological grandparents, so fill that void. Be intentional about passing on a legacy that is worthy of your calling. Moses taught Joshua, Elijah impacted Elisha, Naomi taught Ruth about God, Elizabeth mentored Mary, Barnabas believed in Mark, Paul poured into Timothy and Titus. If you’re still alive it’s not too late to leave a legacy.
And today if you’re younger, seek out the wisdom of someone older. I had an older man tell me once: “You know, as I got older I realized I was beginning to come up with some answers to questions of life that so long had stumped me. And when I finally found the answers I realized that nobody was asking me the questions.” Find an older person of faith you can trust and ask him or her to share what they have learned.
For our time of invitation this morning I want us to close with a charge from Charles Spurgeon. If you are over the age of 55, would you please stand as you are able: “If, like David, you have slain the lion and the bear and the Philistine when you were young, stand and do another deed of daring, for the Lord liveth still, and his people have need of you. Though your joints are rather rusty, and your limbs can hardly bear you to the battlefield, even if you must limp to the conflict walk towards the battle. He who helped you when you were but a youth and ruddy, will help you now though you are old and infirm, who knoweth what you may do yet? Oh, my honored brethren, revered for your years, show us your metal. Let the young ones see how victories are won…and let us see how he who is washed in the blood of Jesus would not hesitate to shed his own blood in the Redeemer’s cause. Your zeal will stimulate us, your courage nerve us, and we, too, will be valiant for the Lord God of Israel. So may God’s spirit work in you and in us. Amen.”