Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Psalm 119:90
I reach for my thesaurus—not the app on my iPhone, but the paperback copy in the desk drawer beside me. The scent of time hits me with such sudden nostalgia that I set the book down to savor the memories.
I need a word, a more descriptive word than the one I’m trying to use this afternoon, a way to articulate on paper what I only know by heart. I pick it back up, flip to the back, and run my finger down the page until I find it.
The word is purpose.
I’m consciously aware today that God moves on purpose. With these pages yellowed by years, He reminds me that He has a purpose. A purpose handpicked just for me. He has one for you, too.
The thesaurus belonged to my maternal grandfather, Pop, who went to be with Jesus in January of 2013.
He wasn’t a writer, but he was a learner through and through, and this Roget’s Pocket Thesaurus served him well.
He also left behind a pocket bible, which he read through many times, cover to cover.
My grandfather loved words, but He loved God’s word most.
Towards the end of his life, my grandfather suffered from dementia. In the nursing home, he was known for belting out hymns (sometimes a little off-key) to anyone who would pull up a chair and listen. The music seemed to ease his dementia, at least for a little while.
I spoke with my grandpa for the last time on Christmas Eve, our conversation a precious gift from God. I got to tell this story at his funeral a couple weeks later. Pop didn’t talk about the pain he was in that day, even though I could tell he was hurting. He didn’t recognize me as his granddaughter that day either.
As his mind began to fade, he lost sight of loved ones, but he never lost sight of God.
As I crouched down next to his chair, I told him I was praying for him. He thanked me as tears filled his eyes, then he began to tell me about his God.
Pop told me that he talked to God all day and all night long. He said God had never once failed him. My grandfather went on and on about how much he loved the Lord, and how even though it seemed to him that He was being silent, he knew God was listening.
As I recall this story today, I realize something I’ve never considered before. My grandfather didn’t know who I was that day; I was a stranger to him. Though this reveals the heart-breaking effects of a broken mind, God is redeeming this memory in such a beautiful and purposeful way.
At the very end of his life, my grandfather didn’t miss the opportunity to share Jesus with a stranger.
I was that stranger. Until he took his last breath at ninety-two, my grandfather recognized his responsibility to pass on the good news of Jesus Christ to the next generation. These words beautifully depict my grandfather’s heart.
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18
My paternal grandfather—whom we also called, “Pop”—passed away six weeks before my twins were born. Because of the high risk associated with a multiple pregnancy, I wasn’t allowed to fly. I regret not being at his funeral, but I heard all about it. How the line of those who loved him and came to pay their respects was this never-ending ribbon of tears, old and young, friends and strangers. And children. So many children.
So many hearts broke when my grandfather left this world. If you knew him, you’d call him a jokester; but you’d also understand how much he loved Jesus. Pop was a breath of fresh air. He loved telling people how much Jesus loved them.
He was a teacher, a deacon in the same church he and my grandmother attended for over forty years. My grandmother still serves faithfully in the children’s ministry, loving and caring for the most precious in God’s kingdom.
For his eightieth—and last—birthday, our family made Pop a memory book filled with personal notes and photos. My grandmother wrote that she knew at age sixteen that he would be the love of her life, and he was. She thanked him for putting his relationship with Jesus before her.
My grandpa made time for people, but he made time for God first.
I have two things that belonged to this grandfather as well. I use them every time I sit down to study and write. A burgundy Unger’s Bible Dictionary with a cracked spine and Matthew Henry’s Commentary in one super heavy massive volume. They remind me of the loved ones before me who understood the beauty and the power of the word of God.
My grandfathers were leaders of their families. Perfect? Hardly. Though I still want to view them as superheroes, I’ve lived long enough to know they were human. They made plenty of mistakes, but their own personal relationship with Jesus affected my mom and my dad who raised me.
My parents’ faith is rooted in the previous generation.
My parents became followers of Jesus and followed His plan for their lives (ours as well) by taking the word of God to a place with no light. They currently serve their local church, and my mom and dad constantly encourage me to pursue my passion to communicate God’s story. Before my grandpa’s resources sat on my bookshelf they belonged to my dad.
God speaks repeatedly in His word about training up the next generation, about training our children, and communicating His love.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Psalm 78:5-6
I underlined this verse in my bible the week I found out we were pregnant with our third child.
Today, as I stare at that date in the margin, I think about how both of my grandfathers were gone by that time, yet the way I am raising my children—including this youngest and fiercest one of the bunch—has been directly affected by those who came before me.
Next to my Pop’s bible, which still bears evidence of his penmanship, my own bible sits open. Tears fall quick and without warning as I wonder which of my own grandchildren (or great-grandchildren) will clutch my bible one day.
My heart swells for those who will follow, for the ones here long after I’m gone.
How do we leave a legacy? How do we impact the generation to come in small, intentional, everyday ways? God is answering my questions through the lives of my grandfathers.
My grandfathers loved God, and they loved people. It was evident in every aspect of their lives. They served God by loving everyone within reach. My grandfathers were learners and leaders and communicators of grace. They were disciples of Jesus who loved His word. They valued companionship with God and believed in the power of prayer.
My grandfathers both recognized their God-given responsibility for the generation to come.
One of God’s most precious gifts is this tender responsibility He places in our hands. God positions us in families and churches and schools and neighborhoods and circles of influences on purpose. He’s given each of us a unique responsibility to equip the next generation, the one that begins underneath our roof and stretches far beyond.
Jesus loves you,