An Inheritance to Children’s Children
All her life my wife Laurie has enjoyed caring for children. At the age of 11 she started babysitting for her neighbor’s kids. At 14, noticing neighborhood children with nothing to do in the summer, she organized a summer day camp for them. Along with dedicating herself to raising our three children, she helped our family with needed income by working as a pre-school teacher while our children were young and did so again when they were in college. After our children finished college, she wanted to understand more about children, so she enrolled in a degree program herself to obtain her certification in early childhood education, thinking she would then continue teaching in pre-schools.
When she completed her degree, instead of returning to teach in a pre-school, she decided to take our grandchildren into our home five days a week to care for and teach them. I agreed with her decision and take my hat off to her, because I believe in the mission of the family.
At the heart of the mission of the family is the call of God to the older generations to pass on the knowledge of God and wisdom to the younger generations. This takes place in varied ways.
Laurie reads with our grandchildren. She prays with them and sings with them. She drives them to the church preschool where she formerly taught and is sometimes called on to substitute.
Laurie is a birdwatcher. She has set up bird feeders, bird houses and bird baths on the side of our house. We recently set up a fountain at the center of the bird sanctuary. Birds love to frolic in it. Laurie takes delight in observing her feathered friends, imitating their songs, admiring the nuanced variety of their colors and noting their behavior. She does not appreciate big, aggressive birds or squirrels who frighten away from the feeders the little songbirds.
Laurie acquired the habit of observing God’s creatures from her own grandmother, Mama Bea, during visits to her grandparents’ home on a farm in Ohio. Mama Bea fed and observed the raccoons outside the home and involved Laurie in doing the same.
Laurie has now taken on our four year old granddaughter Ariella as an apprentice in keeping an eye on God’s creatures. Recently Laurie and Ariella discovered a walking stick that was perched and migrated from place to place on the side of our house. They examined the intricacy of the web a spider had woven between the post of the clothesline and the deck railing behind our kitchen. Ariella has learned to name a number of birds. She has also taken an interest insects, squirrels and snakes. She now runs between the bay window in our sitting room and either one of us to report excitedly what the birds and other creatures outside are up to.
Christian theologians over the centuries have affirmed that God reveals Himself through two books – the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture. Scripture agrees. “The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims His Handiwork.” Psalm 19:1.
The Book of Proverbs also trains us to learn wisdom by paying attention to the creatures God made.
“You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions. So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing? How long before you get out of bed? A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next? Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life, poverty your permanent houseguest!”
Proverbs 6:6-11 The Message.
Encouraging inquisitiveness about and contemplation of the wonders of God’s created world are ways we can help our children learn discernment and wisdom. In an age in which electronic games have a stranglehold on many children, I cheer Laurie on as she shares the love of God’s creatures with Ariella.
Laurie could be doing the same kinds of things with more children if she were teaching in a preschool. And our family could certainly use the extra cash. One could point out that giving so much time and energy to one child is a luxury not everyone can afford. That would be true. But this opportunity to give undivided attention to a little one, to invest in her life, comes rarely and will quickly pass. Our faith in Jesus, the Son of God assures us that the choice to dedicate one’s time to one little person while the rest of the world, seemingly, passes us by, can be the faithful choice. To invest one’s life in teaching little ones to love and follow Jesus with understanding and discernment is a worthwhile and challenging undertaking that requires great energy and commitment.
In 1524, at the age of about 41, Martin Luther wrote a public letter to all the leaders of the cities of Germany in which he charged them to establish schools for the education of the young. His letter was entitled “To the Councilmen of all cities of Germany, that they establish and maintain Christian Schools.“ At the time there was nothing like universal education in Germany. Luther’s proposal for schools, of course, included bold and thorough instruction in Christian faith. In his letter Luther insisted that the responsibility to nurture and instruct the young belonged to all adults in society, not just parents. Speaking of older citizens, Luther wrote “Indeed, for what other purpose do we older folks exist, other than to care for, instruct and bring up the young?”
In a study by Barna called Households of Faith – The Rituals and Relationships that Turn a Home into a Sacred Space published in 2019, interviewers asked younger folks in Christian households “How do the people in your household or extended household talk to you about their faith?” The general question was elaborated with follow up questions as follows:
-Who teaches me about the Bible?
-Who talks with me about God’s forgiveness?
-Who sets and example?
-Who teaches me about traditions?
-Who encourages me to go to church?
-Who encourages me in other ways?
In response to every one of these questions the most frequent answer given by young people was “a grandparent.” The second most frequent answer was “my mother,” and the third most frequent answer was “my father.”
The greatest inheritance we have to pass on to our children and grandchildren is an active, vibrant and demonstrable faith working through love. How are you passing on a faith legacy to the young people in your family orbit?
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