Sometime ago I jotted down some of the lessons that God has been teaching me over the last two decades about intentional, biblical grandparenting. There are many lessons God has taught me or is still teaching me. I am sometimes a slower learner, but I am willing to learn.
I thought I would choose five of the lessons I’ve learned—and am still learning—to share with you. Obviously, I wrote these in a time when there were not “stay-at-home” and “social-distancing” regulations. Even so, long distance grandparenting has long been a reality for many of you, if not most of you. So, I’ve tried to offer some practical suggestions for how these lessons can be played out in our current state of ‘distancing’ with the hope that soon you will be able to enjoy the hugs and kisses we long for once again. Either way, these lessons are actually ‘best practices’ for godly grandparents that are just as relevant today as ever.
This will not be the first time I’ve dealt with this first one. But I’m going to say it again because I continually run into grandparents who don’t get it… or don’t want to admit it.
DON’T SETTLE FOR BEING A GOOD GRANDPARENT
I suspect most of my readers are like me… you love those good times with your grandchildren, and right now you intensely long for those times again. You want them to like you and to want to spend time with you. You enjoy giving them good gifts and spoiling them… just a little bit. You probably pray for them and with them at mealtimes in your house. You may even take them to church with you (and hope one day that will be something you can do again). You’re a good grandparent.
The truth is good grandparents deeply love their grandchildren. We love doing fun things with them and helping them anyway we can. And the majority of grandparents I encounter think they are doing a pretty good job and see no reason for reading a book on grandparenting or attending a grandparenting conference. I’m doing just fine, thank you very much. And maybe you are.
But here’s my question: Is being a good grandparent good enough? If I read my Bible correctly, God doesn’t think so. God has given very clear instructions for grandparents (and parents), and we must take His instruction seriously. That instruction can be stated in a very simple statement found in Deuteronomy 4:9 (and there are many others): “Teach these things (God’s truth) to your children and your children’s children!” In other words, our grandchildren need the Good News more than they need good grandparents or our good times.
Not An Either/Or
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not an either-or command. It’s not a command to replace having a good time with your grandchildren with the really serious ‘religious’ things. It’s both-and. But here’s the problem, the really important things that matter for eternity are essential, and they are usually the things that drop off the radar screen before anything else. It’s true even for many Christian grandparents. After all, sharing the Gospel and helping them navigate how to walk in the truth is the church’s job, right?
Wrong! That’s our job, according to the Bible. The church’s job is to supplement what we are commanded to do and do what it can to equip us for that task. Remember, the church only has our kids on average less than 2 hours per month, assuming they are regular church goers. That means that one weekend with your grandchildren is more time than the church has with your grandchildren all year. And the truth is that the job of teaching and training are the primary responsibilities of parents and grandparents. We are not off the hook.
Diane and I learned early on that our prime objective as grandparents is not to be our grandchildren’s BFF, as tempting as that is. Rather our job is to show them how much they are loved by us and God by faithfully demonstrating the glorious reality of the Gospel both in how we live and what we say. That assumes, of course, that we grasp the glorious truth that the resurrected Christ has secured an inheritance in heaven for us through our faith in Christ in which I am shielded by God’s power until that salvation is revealed (1 Peter 1:3-6).
I have known the Lord since I was nine. That was a long time ago. Do you ever find it is easy to forget what a glorious, satisfying truth this is when life is comfortable and not especially difficult? As this body is slowing down and I am more keenly aware of my limitations and how few days lie ahead, I know I must choose to either rejoice in the glory of this promise or focus on my ailments. I choose to rejoice because I have a story I want my grandchildren to know.
Tell Your Story
One of the most powerful things I can do for my grandchildren is share my faith story. That’s true for you as well. How did you come to faith in Christ? How has the Gospel transformed you and shaped who you are? Have they ever heard your story? It’s never too late to share it.
Stories matter because they enable the hearer to relate to the people in the story. Everyone loves stories, especially children. Your story relates to their story because it helps them understand things about their own family. So, share lots of stories from your life, but make sure the one they know you most cherish is the story of how Christ changed your story.
In her new book, Heirlooms: Passing Faith Stories to Your Grandchildren, Tina Houser writes: “Sharing your spiritual story is not just one sit-down-let’s-talk time. The idea is not to bombard your grandchildren with your life story, from birth to present. It’s about breaking it down so that each little piece packs a punch. Each little piece turns their eyes to Jesus, and they get one more glimpse of how their life could be different by totally submitting to Him. Every single day… or at least every moment you spend time with your grandchildren… is an opportunity to give them a little bit more of your story.” (Warner Press, Anderson, IN, 2019; page16)
Do your grandchildren know the pieces of your story? Whatever you circumstance, don’t settle for simply being a good grandparent. Choose to be intentional about telling God’s story of grace and salvation through your story—in person, online or write it down. (We have a Legacy Journal download to help you do that.) It matters more than you may imagine.
Your salvation story is a big, important chapter and should be one that is thought through so you can tell it in the best way possible. –Tina Houser