A couple of weeks ago one of our writers shared her experience as a deeply Christian grandparent whose grandchildren aren’t being raised in the faith. Reading Mary Lee’s post made me realize once again that there is only so much I can control in life.
Mary Lee’s post describes how she raised her children as disciples of Jesus. Their family was regularly in worship. They practiced faith at home; they participated in formation programs at church. Mary Lee herself is an ambassador of the grace of God in the world, serving as both a deacon and an author. Her life leaves no doubt about her commitment to God in Christ.
I must admit that when I read her words I thought, “Oh my goodness – if her children aren’t still active members of the body of Christ, raising up their own children in the faith, there really is no way to be sure mine will remain in the faith!”
Then I was struck by the fact that I sense a connection with Mary Lee’s grandchildren. I remember being an unbaptized, unchurched child. And it dawned on me for the first time that my relationship with my grandparents planted some of the seeds for my adult conversion to Christianity.
My parents valued intellectual integrity, keeping your word, working hard, and doing what was right – values for which I remain deeply grateful. In our house, Sunday morning was a time of rest, but worship was never involved. Religion did not make sense to my parents; because they valued integrity, they would not take me to praise a God in whom they did not believe.
My grandfather’s second marriage got him involved with religion. And during one visit with those grandparents, I was taken to church. It was my only experience of common worship between birth and age nineteen.
I remember my step-grandmother telling me that God loved me. I didn’t understand why that meant I had to get up early, get dressed nicely, sit in a pew, say things that made no logical sense, and listen as everybody else sang songs I had never heard. I don’t remember the idea of “a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” being explained; I probably wouldn’t have understood it anyway. But I was still in elementary school, so baffling adult requirements were a part of life.
I only drew one lesson from that experience in church: I learned that for some incomprehensible reason, my grandparents thought this strange ritual mattered. I loved my grandparents. If it was important to them, even though it made no sense to me, maybe it mattered in a way I didn’t yet understand.
As I got older, the wider culture taught me that Christians thought I was going to hell. In all honesty, that was not very winsome. Because I wasn’t Christian, I didn’t believe in hell. Avoiding it was no motivator for faith.
But my grandparents never told me I was going to hell. They loved me unconditionally, prayed for me regularly, and occasionally mentioned they were doing just that. Sometimes they talked with me about religion. When they did, they shared their own beliefs without judging my lack of belief. When I look back, I see that my grandparents’ love for Jesus and for me planted some of the seeds for my adult conversion to Christianity.
I was baptized about five years after my grandfather passed away. I trust he was rejoicing in heaven.
Grandparents, please know that your witness to your grandkids matters. Praying for them – and letting them know they are being prayed for – teaches them that there are people on earth who take God seriously. Continuing in your faith even when your adult children have walked away from it does make a difference. Sharing with your grandchildren what your faith means to you is important.
You don’t need to be pushy – actually, being pushy is counterproductive. You simply need to be yourself: to continue to grow as a Christian. The more you understand about the faith, the more you can be ready to explain. Make your faith evident without making it overbearing: yes, finding that balance is hard. But it matters.
My relationship with God in Christ has provided me incomprehensible grace. I am grateful for everyone who helped me discover it.
There is little we can control in life. But as long as we have life and breath, we can praise God and pray for those we love. As disciples we are called to live faithfully. A faithful life plants seeds of faith for others – whether or not we see the harvest. Continuing to grow as Christians ourselves might just be the most powerful witness of all.
How do you make your faith evident without being overbearing?