My Theology and My Grandparenting

By Tom Ellsworth

I broke a promise. I don’t take that lightly, but thankfully, it was a promise to me alone. Years ago I vowed that when I became a grandfather I would not get all “twitterpated” (defined as infatuated; giddy; in a state of anxious excitement—as used in the Disney movie Bambi, which I’ve seen again and again as a casualty of being a grandparent).

02_Life4_Ellsworth_JNMy silly promise melted two seconds after holding my granddaughter for the first time. With the birth of each subsequent grandchild, the memory of such an absurd vow fades farther into my subconscious. And every grandparent reading this understands exactly how I feel. So how does my theology impact me as a twitterpated grandpa?

Proverb 17:6 says, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged.” Indeed, the unconditional love of a grandchild makes one feel like royalty. If the atheist is right and our existence is merely random chance, then logically, love should diminish toward each succeeding generation. But it doesn’t; it’s new, fresh, and delightful with each grandchild. From rides in the rumble seat of a 1929 Ford to games around the kitchen table, this relationship is like a breath of fresh air. Isn’t it just like our God to fill us with a new kind of love and joy just when we need it most?

Window into God’s Heart

I’ve concluded the love experienced between a grandparent and grandchild is one more window into the heart of God. Consequently, one of our greatest responsibilities is to help our grandchildren discover a genuine image of God through the love, joy, and laughter we share.

Proverb 13:22 states, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” The context of this proverb certainly suggests a material inheritance that undoubtedly could be a blessing. But there are other ways—even more important—to provide an inheritance to your children’s children. Consider the value of leaving behind a good name. Your godly reputation might just inspire them to follow in your steps long after you are gone. Again wise King Solomon reminds us that, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverb 22:1).

Pray, Model, Teach

Theologically speaking, I believe every person is responsible for his or her spiritual choices. Selfishly, I wish I could choose Christ for every one of my grandkids—but I cannot, and neither can you. What we can do is pray for them daily as well as model and teach biblical principles.

Elsie and I have a good time reading Bible stories, exploring God’s creation, and singing kid’s songs of the faith. I had forgotten that children’s minds are like sponges in these early years. We are pouring into them as much as we can because I’m convinced their generation will face far more difficult spiritual challenges in adulthood than mine.

I’m ever so grateful our daughters and sons-in-law are strong Christians, so it’s a joy to come alongside and reinforce their teaching.

Don’t, however, underestimate the power of a grandparent’s influence. Paul wrote to his “son in the faith” Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy was a great blessing to Paul and the early church, and it all began with Grandma Lois. Incidentally, my grandmother was the first to suggest I should be a preacher, a suggestion I dismissed at the time. After 40 years of preaching, I guess she knew something I didn’t.

You, too, know much that your grandchildren need to know. Help them see what they can do to serve Jesus Christ.

New Urgency

Turning the statement around, being a grandparent has also affected my theology. I’m filled with a new sense of urgency. While I’ve always cared about future generations, I have become acutely aware the church is not about me anymore, if indeed, it ever was. Research certainly indicates the millennial generation doesn’t view the current church as a source for answers to their spiritual questions.

What I want more than anything else is a healthy, relevant, and vibrant church that will engage my grandchildren long after I’m gone. I do not want to go home alone. The thought of my grandchildren not being in Heaven is unbearable. It is therefore incumbent upon my generation to pass on strong and healthy congregations to their generation.

Being a grandparent is simply the best. I’m twitterpated! As I gaze into my grandchildren’s trusting faces, I’m trusting God’s promise: “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children” (Psalm 103:17).

Tom Ellsworth serves as minister with Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, Bloomington, Indiana.

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