My mother-in-law was as Godly a woman as I have ever known. And she had one amazing gift. She could tick me off at the drop of a hat. It started when Doris and I were sitting with her parents on the front porch of their farmhouse. They were in one porch swing. Doris and I in another. I was as nervous as a cat. Doris had demanded that I ask them the big question before she would say yes to mine. (I know, I know, I’ve told it differently but actually, I asked HER to marry.) It was a beautiful June night. The moon was huge shining over the giant oaks out in the pasture. So romantic. A storybook moment. I know that they knew what was going on because I cleared my throat and said, “I need to ask you all something.” Before I could say anything else, Doris’s mom said, “I’m just not ready for this.” UUgghh! I sweetly and tenderly pointed my finger at her and said through clenched teeth, “Let me tell you something. There are a lot of mothers who would be glad to have me as a son-in-law.” Yes, it was a gross exaggeration but I was ticked.
Another time, I was the youth pastor in Augusta, GA. We arranged to meet them in Gatlinburg, TN to share some pretty important news. Doris was expecting our first child. She was sick, and nervous, and excited all at the same time. She couldn’t wait to break the news to her folks. We sat on the edge of the bed and started, “Well, you are going to be grandparents again.” Before Doris could finish the sentence, her mom shook her head and said, “I just can’t be happy about this right now.” To which I sweetly and tenderly pointed my finger at her (are you seeing a pattern?) and through clenched teeth said, “Let me tell you something. You daughter is happy so you better get happy.”
Now, in her defense, Mary, had nothing against me (well, almost nothing) and she certainly loved our children with all her heart. She just was constantly aware of the wickedness of the world, the apparent downward trajectory of society, and the thought of introducing a new family, and especially bringing a new baby into it was more frightening than joyful. And let me tell you something, after all these years, I know exactly how she feels.
I have three amazing grandkids, Jon-Mical will be 13 in 8 days. Jakson will be 10 next month. And Caleb just turned 1. I love them more than my own life. (To tell you the truth, I might love them more than my own kids 😊) But sometimes the joy I feel about them is almost smothered by the fear I have for their future in this weird, wacky, and wicked world. A couple of nights ago I woke up in a near panic, thinking about little Caleb and what he would face in his lifetime. I spent the next hour praying to ease the anxiety and find some peace. Maybe Mary was not too far from being right.
Then today, in my devotional time, I read I John 1. “That… which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—This we proclaim concerning the Word of Life.” John says, “Hey, I’m not just passing on some ethereal here-say. I am telling you about stuff that I have really experienced.” I’ve read that passage a thousand times, but today it seemed like God was pointing His finger at me and saying, “Let me tell you something, I have all of this under control. Your job is not to fret about it. You job is to make sure you tell them everything you know about me.”
So…I have a new outlook and a new plan heading into the new year. I plan to pray for my kids and grandkids more than I worry about them. Oh, I’ll still worry I’m sure but every time I start to fret, I will stop and pray for them and let the math work itself out. After all, Jesus said I can do a lot more good praying than I can by worrying.
Second, I plan to talk to them more about how good God is than how bad the world is. Doris is a little bit like her mother. She can go right to the bad stuff. Jon-Mical says, “Mimi, I will be a teenager next week,” and Doris says, “Oh, Jon-Mical, I’m not happy about that. Teenagers take drugs and drink beer and talk back to their mothers.” I get that. But from now on, before I launch into some diatribe about temptation and sin, and the wooing of the wicked world, I’m going to tell them about all of the really cool things that God has done for them, for me, and for our family. I plan to talk more about the Word of Life than the way of death.
Finally, I plan to spend more time demonstrating JOY in front of them that unleashing my angst. When we are in the car and the news is on, rather than ranting at the radio, I’m going to celebrate Jesus. When they are at our house and the bills come in the mail, instead of letting them see me fume over the finances, I will laugh with them about the latest blessing God has given us. And if we happen to be watching Ohio State and Alabama on Monday night and the Tide is sticking it to our Buckeyes, I will….well, I don’t know what I’ll do about that, but you get my point.
I do not know what the future holds for my kids and my grandkids. But I do know the One who holds their future. I know Him personally. My eyes have seen Him. My hands have touched Him. And the same God that watched over Doris and I, the same God that took care of Mary’s grandchildren, will protect and bless Jon-Mical, and Jakson, and Caleb. I just need to keep telling them about that.
And when I get to heaven I will apologize to Mary for pointing my finger at her in the motel room in Gatlinburg. The June night on the porch swing, that’s another story….