But, for the longest time, I was certain I didn’t have it.
I guess you could say I don’t exactly come from the classic church-going type of folks. When I was a kid, I have vague memories of church, but it definitely wasn’t a regular part of our lives. At Thanksgiving or Christmas, my grandmother could sometimes be found wearing an apron that said, “Don’t **** With the Cook” (you can be creative with that one). My family was a bunch of rowdy people who loved each other in a big way, and were just a little rough around the edges.
In the Bible there’s this verse that I’ve always loved,
As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:5-7
This is an amazing picture of a legacy of faith! Paul was writing about the faith passed through Timothy’s family that made him who he was. It shaped and molded him into someone who was changing people’s lives with the Gospel of Jesus. I’ve always loved these verses, but never thought they applied to me. My family isn’t filled with super spiritual or faith-filled people. There wasn’t a strong faith tradition passed through our family. We didn’t go to church. We didn’t talk about Jesus at Christmas or Easter. We didn’t pray at home, or read our bibles. Whenever I would stumble across these verses it would always seem sort of distant, nice for someone else, but not really part of my story.
Remember Grandma? With the apron? She water-skied until she was well into her 70’s. She was a talented artist. She loved fiercely. She danced circles around everyone at my wedding, while wearing a wig because chemo had taken her hair. She was a force to be reckoned with. She gave me countless gifts, but I wouldn’t say she really passed on a legacy of faith. About a year ago, I remembered a conversation that she and I had when I was in college.
One of our relatives had recently had a baby and decided not to baptize him. Grandma wasn’t a regular church-goer, so I was confused when she told me that she was really upset about it. She was going on and on about how she just wished they would go on and get that baby baptized. I finally asked her why she was so concerned. She told me about her brother. Grandma and her brother grew up living in all kinds of chaos. They bounced between living with different family members. There wasn’t a lot of love and stability. She told me that for whatever reason, when her brother was a baby, her mother decided not to have him baptized but later on, did baptize my grandmother. She said that late in his life, after a long struggle with alcoholism, he confided in her that he always felt like their mother must have loved him less to not bring him to baptism.
That’s what fueled Grandma’s fire to make sure that the kids in her family were baptized. My parents weren’t regular church folks when my sister and I were born, but come hell or high water- Grandma made sure they brought us to baptism. She wanted it to be very clear that we know how much we are loved. I wonder if she had any idea of the faith legacy that she was really passing on. I certainly didn’t. I know that I have been given the precious gift of faith. Knowing Jesus has given me life. Not a better life, not an easier life, or a more peaceful life—but actual life; Life that won’t end with illness or old age. Her influence, that brought me to baptism, started a journey that led to my sweet boys to be brought to that baptismal font. My kids know Jesus, in part, because my Grandma wanted to ensure that I know that I'm loved. That’s a legacy worth passing on.
Now when I read 2 Timothy, I think of the faith that first dwelt in my grandmother, Joyce, and how it has made all the difference in mine.