“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I m sure, dwells in you as well.” (2 Timothy 1:5 ESV)
Sadly…88 percent of Christians leave the church before the age of 18. Unfortunately, I am one of those Christians who left the church before the age of 18. My ideal Christian family was shattered by a father who fell into sexual sin and selfishness. There was no parental modeling of authentic Christian discipleship in my home, only abandonment, hypocrisy, and rejection. But to my great fortune, in the midst of sinful darkness and human despair, Christ’s presence endured.
My paternal grandmother was an authentic Disciple of Christ. As a very young child, I accompanied her to church on Sunday mornings. She felt confidently comfortable enough to occupy a pew only a few feet away from the pulpit. My grandfather was a gentle man of few words; he would sit guarding the outside of the pew, I was safely tucked on the inside, and my grandmother sandwiched between the two of us, was the matriarch of strength and endurance. As an adult woman and mother, I now realize the great depths of grief and heartbreak my father’s actions and behaviors must have been for her…the pangs of maternal doubt and failure she must have struggled with… but she faithfully continued to walk according to God’s purpose and stay on mission with Christ. This obviously included taking her newly fatherless and frightened granddaughter to church faithfully every week. I fondly recall and delight in remembering the Sunday mornings spent in the wooden pew with her just a few feet from the pulpit. The church service would start promptly with the congregation standing in unity to sing the doxology, as our pastor would quickly raise himself to join in praise and song, from a red velvet upholstered gold chair which was fit for a king.
My grandmother was aged and worn by life, warm and plump, her dresses simple and plain, her Bible tattered and torn, and her arms provided the perfect soft and fluffy pillow for my sleepy head to sneak a nap during the sermon. My naps would not last long though as I was usually aroused violently from sleep by the screaming sermons of a fire and brimstone pastor, preaching a lot of God’s wrath and a little of God’s grace but I eventually came to know my Prince of Peace in that distant far away church and I committed my life to Him there in my weekly sheltered sanctuary. I was baptized in His living water and in the midst of uncertainty, rejection, and abandonment, Christ accepted me as I was, a young child who was just beginning the long and lonely road of a fallen humanity. And much later in life, as despair and darkness reentered like a dagger, His hand is the only one I thought to reach for when I found myself teetering at the edge of a darkened cliff. I knew for certain I would find Him there for I found Him there many decades ago in the youthful despair of an abandoned childhood and indeed He was there …patiently waiting to welcome me back home.
“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”(Psalm 78:4 ESV)
My husband and I were blessed with four children… all adults now… two are now happily married with children of their own; two are still living in my home and none of them currently and consistently attend church. They were not raised in church as I was then estranged from the body of Christ. Last Christmas, my oldest daughter and my beautiful four year old granddaughter accompanied us to a Christmas musical performed at our church. Sitting there in the wooden pew with my granddaughter planted securely and tightly on her grandmother’s lap, her sleepy head resting on my chest and shoulder, she appeared so excited by the sounds of the various instruments mixing together beautifully and the singing of a harmonious Christmas choir, the angelic sounds of beloved Christmas hymns echoing through the air. I held her tightly and trembled as I felt myself being transported back in time momentarily to a distant time and in a distant place, and in the painful memory of my broken past where I once laid in the secure and loving embrace of my own grandmother’s arms in my weekly sheltered sanctuary of long ago, this was the blessed and sacred place I initially found my loving Savior waiting. And in the aching conviction of His Spirit residing now within me, the painful and brutal reality…my own pangs of maternal doubt and failure became known in my present…
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV)
Two photographs capturing a moment frozen still in time… two photographs eerily similar yet profoundly different. Two photographs representing over a century and five generations of time…linked by a familial heritage which began thousands of years ago…yet only a few days may have truly come to pass in my Savior’s eternal paradise. So much has changed, yet so much remains the same. And Christ endures and remains the same yesterday, today, and forever and never re-defined by the whims of men. One loved one is now in the joyful everlasting presence of her loving Savior; and one loved one has yet to discover Him … in her fleeting and brief moment of time here on earth.
Do you have a weekly sheltered sanctuary? Do you long to return? Who do you find waiting in your blessed and sacred place? Do not fear the pain of your past for He is waiting for you in your present.
For My Grandma:
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.