My mother is the oldest of nine children and yesterday, many of her brothers and sisters, some of their children (my cousins), and even a few of the third generation gathered as we do once a year to catch up and enjoy each other’s company for a few hours. There is a whole generation between my mother and her youngest sibling. My mother welcomed her first grandchild into the world the year her youngest sister became a first-time mom. After my grandparents died and as my cousins grew older and began families of their own, the family focus shifted to our individual families, as it should. For my brothers and I, going to Grandma and Pappap’s house for the holidays no longer meant our grandparents, but our children’s grandparents.
That’s when my mother’s family decided to put one Saturday aside each year to reconnect, to remember who we were, to share who we are, and celebrate who we are becoming. Yesterday, I spoke with a first cousin who is half my age. As we talked about the past, I realized that he never knew the Grandma and Pappap I knew. He has no memories of our grandfather who I think died before he was born and the Grandma he knew was a sick, elderly woman who was always confused and not quite there – not the vibrant, gin rummy playing leprechaun I grew up with. I looked around and realized that a couple of the third generation teens there were born after both my grandparents were already gone. They have no relational connection with those two precious souls I remembers so fondly – my Grandma and Pappap. I could share all my memories, we can look at all the pictures and tell all the old family stories, but they will never have a relational connection with them like I do.
This is what God brought to mind for me when I read Joshua 24:31 last night – Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel. I’ve read it many times, but for some reason, this time, it jumped off the page at me. If Joshua and the elders served the Lord, then they had to be teaching their children about the God of Israel who brought them up out of Egypt, led them through the wilderness, and conquered nation after nation to deliver into their hands the promised land that they were now settling down in. So why is it that the next generation wasn’t as faithful to God as the last?
Perhaps our limited human point of view doesn’t allow us to recognize and react to the miracles of God that we don’t experience ourselves. We can read in the Bible today about God walking in the garden with us and, because we ourselves didn’t experience this personally, we have no response or connection to the God who created man, who walked with Adam in the cool of the evening in the garden. Just as the third generation of my mother’s family can hear the stories of Grandma and Pappap, and yet have no personal connection with or emotional ties to these two wonderful people who made it possible for their very existence.
This filter of personal connection built into us makes it so easy for us to have a “what has he done for me lately” kind of attitude toward God. I can tell you all of the miracles of God through history and even the ones God has provided in my own life, but unless they affect you directly, you have no way of personally connecting with them. It’s not enough for me to tell you about Jesus. I have to introduce you to him by reaching out to you in his grace and love, to encourage a personal relationship between you and God. It may be cliché, but I need to be Jesus to you so that you might see Jesus in me, in the hope of opening up a line of communication between you and God.
Living a life of faith is about living to know him better each day. It’s about loving God with all I am and all I have, being in relationship with him, and striving to honor him in the moments of my life. With God’s help, it is possible and it’s when that goal is being met, you have the opportunity to see him in me and get to know him a little better. Even if your first impression of him comes through my flawed human example - I hope you can see that Jesus is worth gettting to know and growing to love.
About the pictures:
Parkwood Presbyterian Church Prayer Garden (July 2004)