Two years ago, my grandmother, Lois, went into the hospital. She was having trouble breathing, and an X-ray showed she had severe fluid on her lungs. After draining the fluid to relieve the pressure, test upon test was done to see why the fluid was there and where it had come from. My husband stayed hom from work with our children while I went to the hospital. There was so little we could do except wait. Finally, the prognosis came in: cancer.
I stood with my uncle and aunt as the doctor pointed to pictures from a scan and said, "Here is what we believe is a mass—a tumor." I watched my aunt's face fall as the doctor relayed information and statistics of lung cancer. The hospital staff said they would see what they could do to make her comfortable. Then the phone calls began. We called my brother, my cousins, great-aunts and uncles, and everyone in our large family we could reach. "Come and see Grandma before it's too late!"
I remember taking notes on Grandma's condition when nurses and doctors came in to speak with her about what was happening inside her body and what her next procedure or test would be. My mom and I kept a notebook with carefully written medical terms that we would Google later. My aunt brought in a voice recorder so we could make sure we remembered everything word for word. We never left her side: One of us was always there so we could know what was going on because Grandma wasn't well enough to comprehend everything. Between the meds and the discomfort, she had a difficult time coping with what the doctors told her. We were desperate to get the details right so that we could explain to others who were not there what was happening.
I cried during the nights at the hospital while I used the free wi-fi to send an email to my brother who was stationed in Hawaii. I hated starting the email out with the words, "Don't panic," because I was telling him not to do the very thing we all wanted to do.
I even sent out email messages to my acquaintances who are praying people, asking them for prayer. One special place I asked for prayer was in one of my online classes. "Spiritual Formation" the course was called. There was a specific section where we were to read about one another's needs and lift one another up in prayer. The responses came flooding in: "We hear you, Sister"; "By His wounds we are healed"; "Be blessed in your time of trouble"; "'Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil' for the LORD is with you!" My classmates from a Christian college showered me in prayer. I also got emails from my professors. It just so happened I also was taking a pastoral care class. My professor from that course gave me extensions for any assignments due, saying this was giving more pastoral experience than I had requested. He also said I would now be able to relate to grieving families and those in the hospital because of my own situation. I was granted a revision for one of my assignments, as well. Instead of making pastoral calls and visits with people I was merely acquainted with from my church, I was instructed to be pastoral with my own family. I was reminded to observe everyone in my family and find out how to pray for them.
Of course, our first thought was always healing. We live for a God who heals! That is what we seek and ask for in situations such as this. It seemed so obvious that it hardly made sense to pray for it. Of course we are asking for healing. Yet…and yet, had we? I could only recall praying with our pastors as they visited Grandma's room. What words were said, who could say? Did we ask for peace and comfort but forget the power of our God? As I pondered this, I realized the next day was Sunday. I would get a cloth that we could anoint in church and bring to her!
This must be what God wanted me to do. Indeed, I believe to this day that my doing so was an act of obedience. Whether Grandma would be made well didn't matter as much as my faith in the fact God could heal her. So, I went to church with a nervous excitement; but it was so lonely in church that day. Usually my husband and I sat with my aunt, uncle, mom and Grandma. They were all still at the hospital. I cannot even bring to mind the topic of the sermon or the songs that were sung. I just remember longing for the invitation so I could have my—and my Grandma's—church family pray for her. It was so comforting to know that while my family was away, my church family was still there. We all were gathered to worship God.
So we prayed over the cloth. After church, our good friend/pastor offered to go with us to pray over my grandmother. At the hospital, I walked into the room filled with relatives to see my Grandma in the center of it all. I gave Grandma a hug and told her that I had a handkerchief anointed for her. Tears came to her eyes as she told me thank you. She understood what it meant. She said she was in God's hands. If He decided to take her home, it was fine with her. She had had a good life—and as she said that, she glanced around the room. I did, too; and my breath caught at what I saw.
I saw a legacy. Every person in that room was a Christian. Every person in that room placed absolute faith and trust in the fact God is sovereign, He keeps His promises and gives us hope. Every person believed God sent His only Son Jesus to save us from our sins and rescue us from final death. I know this wasn't an accident. We were all there for the same reason, after all.
We were all there because of my Grandmother. Grandma was a woman who cared for her family and taught her children to follow God. Her children did the same. Now her grandchildren are following in those footsteps. Some of us have committed to lifelong ministry in the church. Again, that was no accident. With a grandmother who taught Sunday School for more than 30 years, mothers who worked with kids, served on boards, arranged special programs for Christmas and Easter—what more natural place could there be than for us to be in the church? The church is where we grew up. It's where we met our family every Sunday, where we made our friends, met our spouses, where we played, where we ate, where we were taught, where we learned to pray. Yes, I had to miss an occasional soccer practice, and sometimes I didn't sleep late; but that was because we were involved with our church. Church was a family priority and had been for generations. It was what our family did; it is who we are. As we formed a circle around Grandma and prayed, every person in that room had faith. The presence of God was surely in that room; He was among those who believed.
I found it interesting that only those of us who are Christians were there that Sunday to pray. While I wish I could say every member of my family is a Christian, but not all are. There are those who are not yet Christians, and there are those who have turned away. I hope it is only for a season, but that day I got a glimpse of the remnant that remained. I got a glimpse of a living legacy, and that legacy is strong. It is a legacy of faith, family and love for God's church. It is what I hope to someday pass on…
Yet the thing about legacies is they don't start someday. If that someday ever comes, it is usually too late. My legacy is now. It is how I am raising my children. Am I teaching them to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength? Am I teaching them that we put God first in everything (and that includes missing the occasional dance recital or school event because we are part of a church congregation)? Am I reading the Bible to them, explaining what it means and most importantly living it out?
It is in the moments at home that our children learn the most. What do my children see me spending time doing? Is the computer or TV more important than giving my time and attention to my children to bake cookies together or play a game?
Little ones can see our priorities so easily. They understand what is important because they always are watching what we do. Without ever having taught or prompting her, my infant daughter will raise any toy with buttons to her ear to pretend she is talking on the phone. How did she learn that? I, of course, assume it indicates she is a brilliant baby. The reality is she simply picked it up from watching what I do. If only it were that easy to teach my child to become Christians! But isn't it? If my children see what I do, then I need to make sure they see the right things. My children need to see me volunteering my time to help those who are hurting. My children need to see me raising my arms to God in praise. They need to see my smile in delight as I read Scripture. Oh, be careful little eyes what you see!
Yet a legacy is more than visuals. What words are spoken in our homes? My middle daughter recently dropped a four-letter word on us the other day. With mouths open, my husband and I asked where she heard that word. Why would we ask? I know exactly where she heard that word. It was on a TV show I regularly enjoy, and now my daughter cussed all over the house. Well, not really all over the house. We put a stop to it once we heard her. We stressed, "Only say what you hear Mommy and Daddy say." So is my legacy leaving pure words? Am I voicing encouragement and praise? Are my words loving and kind? Are we speaking the things of God in our home?
Again, a legacy is more. It also shows what we know. What we know to be true is not questioned because facts only have one way about them. Horace Bushnell once remarked, "The child is to grow up a Christian and never know himself as being otherwise." Wouldn't that be wonderful? True, questions make faith deeper and richer; and they are simply part of life; but wouldn't it be truly great to have your child never for a moment doubt that God loves her, sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross, and has forgiven her sin? I want those in the shadow of my legacy to know in the deepest depths of their hearts they are completely in love with God. They will only know this, though, if we speak the words of faith at home, if we discuss their questions and find answers rooted in Scripture, and if they experience God through learning and understanding.
As church leaders, we must ask ourselves whether we are empowering families to live out faith in their daily lives. Families are the cornerstone for instilling belief. More than any other person or place, parents and grandparents have the greatest capacity to influence their children toward faith in Christ. Nearly all surveys and tests that research this topic show that parental involvement (or lack thereof) is the number one indicator of whether a person will have a relationship with Christ. Yet, the statistics of failure are alarming. George Barna cites, "We discovered that in a typical week, fewer than 10 percent of parents who regularly attend church with their kids read the Bible together, pray together (other than at mealtimes) or participate in an act of service as a family unit. Even fewer families–1 out of every 20–has any type of worship experience together with their kids, other than while they are at church during a typical month" (Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions).
Somewhere between Sunday and soccer practice, families are failing to live Christ-centered lives. Churches, therefore, must be proactive in equipping parents to be godly examples and strengthening families into homes with a godly heritage. If Christ is welcome in our homes, then He is more than likely to be welcome in our children's hearts.
A legacy: More than any other word, that is what my Grandmother has given me. True, she taught me to make scrambled eggs, how to sew and how to host a tea party; but more importantly, she left footprints of love, faith and eternal truth in her wake. Her gift to my mother was passed on to me. I have inherited a wonderful legacy that by God's grace I intend to leave for my children and church family. It begins now: As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!
"If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living ; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (