I have 9 grandchildren. There are seven are boys 7 and under, so when they get together it’s total mayhem. Honestly, I prefer them in smaller groups at this point in life, but I hate that I don’t get to spend more time with them all. When I look back at my own parenting, I realize that I did an awful lot out of fear. I tried to protect my children from the world, but I’m afraid I just made it look like forbidden fruit to them. When you live in fear of contamination by the culture, you may end up unwittingly sending your children the message that it has more power than God.

If I could go back and relive my life, I would surely try to show my children that the Lord is mightier, and that we should be more worried about living for him than running from the world. During his time on earth, Jesus spent a great deal of time with folks that the religious people avoided. He came into the world and overcame it—he didn’t run from it. This isn’t to say that parents shouldn’t use discernment about the things they allow their children to see and do; rather we should make God bigger in their minds. Our mindset needs to change from one of fear to one of praise. We need to point our children to the almighty, all-loving, amazing God who treasures them. We need to cultivate a love for him, because perfect love drives out fear.

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, my heart was so grieved by the suffering I saw on TV that I decided to join my seminary on 2 trips down to the Gulf to help the recovery efforts. There were a few older students like myself, but the vast majority of the students were decades younger. I believe we had 120 students on the first trip, and I am sure that at least 100 of them were in their twenties. It blessed my heart to see so many young people who seemed completely surrendered to God. I was dealing with a prodigal child at the time, so I spent lots of time talking to the students. I informally interviewed about 60 of them when we paused from our work, and the one question I asked was how they came to know the Lord.

When the week was over, I found one very common thread. I was surprised to find that the vast majority of them attributed their faith to a grandparent. I am sure they were probably all raised in church, but there’s something special about the grandparent/grandchild relationship. Grandparents don’t have to be the bad guys, and most of us have learned that we really and truly have no control in this life. That often means those of us with faith have become more surrendered to God, and no longer trying to control others. At the time, I only had one grandchild, but it gave me great hope that I could possibly have more of an impact in my grandchildren’s lives for the kingdom. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul mentioned the influence of a grandmother in Timothy’s life. “I have been 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.”

In biblical times, several generations all lived in the same household, so grandparents had more access to their grandchildren. These days, families tend to be much more spread out. Six of our grandchildren live in other states, but that does not lessen the call I feel to declare God’s power to my grandchildren. I just have to be more intentional. When I am blessed with time with my grandkids, I try to have conversations about life with the older ones, and look for opportunities to weave God into the story. I share testimonies of his goodness in my own life, and try to let them know how much they are treasured by God, how much they need his love and forgiveness, and what a great plan he has for their lives. I pray that one day their testimonies will be similar to those I heard after Hurricane Katrina. That trip helped me understand that being a grandparent is a high calling. It’s one I intend to answer.

Lord, help me to always look for opportunities to influence our grandchildren towards your kingdom. Help me to be intentional in helping direct them to your great power, and let your goodness shine through me. Help me to always be an encourager to them, and never an excuse for them to turn away. You are so good. Please help me reflect that to these precious children. Amen

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. (Ps. 71:18)