No one can describe (nor understand before they experience it) the depth of love one feels for their grandchild. There is pure, unadulterated joy in having a toddler excitedly yell, “Grandma!!” while running into your arms, snuggle against your shoulder, and say, “I love you!” Each stage of life has its unique blessings and challenges, and God is with us at each stage. Once we navigate the journey through childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, newly married, and middle age, we may be blessed with the gift of being a grandparent, one of God’s many good gifts.
Grandchildren do indeed add indescribable depth and richness to our lives, but consider how we as grandparents can give back to them in a way that blesses them, encourages them, and helps to form their character into the image of Jesus Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit how you can give these gifts not only to your grandchildren, but also to your children.
Grandparents often love to buy gifts as an expression of our love and grandkids love to receive them. But what they will remember far after the gift is the quality of time you spent with them. Giving someone your presence and personal attention communicates that they are valuable and worth your time. That time helps build memories and traditions. The few happy memories I have of my childhood are with my grandma. We weren’t out on fancy trips or shopping. We did ordinary things, but I had her full attention and I felt loved and special. Those memories are priceless gifts.
Let me explain what I mean by contentment. Often, we have expectations of what we would like the relationship with our grandchildren to look like. Unfortunately, putting those expectations on them can be a burden to them. I would love to see and hear from my grown grandchildren much more than I do, but I have learned to be content with the amount of time they can give me which makes the time we are together much more precious.
I have been blessed to have about twenty young adults ask me to be their mentor, which is some ways is like being a grandparent. I have come to appreciate one of the reasons they seek me out is that, in the majority of the time we are together, I am listening to them and asking clarifying questions that help them articulate what they are trying to express (i.e. “It sounds like you feel…” or “Did I understand you to say….?”). It may sound like an oxymoron, but listening is a way of “speaking into” their lives because it validates their feelings and experience. Our grandchildren need someone who can listen to more than the words. Someone who loves them enough to listen to their body language, their facial expressions, their heart.
Hopefully, as we grow older, we grow wiser. There is always the temptation to want to share our great wisdom with others, especially our grandchildren. When they do directly ask for our advice, it is important to prayerfully answer as best we can, but what is even more powerful is to help them to learn how to listen to what God is saying to them. He continues to communicate with us every day. The Bible is a living book, and our grandchildren need to learn spiritual disciplines to help them know how to listen to that Word as if God is speaking to them (because he is). Spiritual disciplines like Lectio Divina are perfect for this. God also speaks to us through creation (Romans 1:20) as well as through other people, but we are often too busy to listen. The Prayer of Examen can be helpful in opening our eyes to the glory of God all around us. One way to practice the Prayer of Examen is to ask yourself three questions each night: How did I see God today? Then praise him. How did I experience God’s grace? Then thank him. What do I wish I had done differently? Then confess. You could also introduce them to times of retreat to experience silence and solitude in God’s presence. Helping our grandchildren experience intimacy with God is a gift that will follow them into eternity.
This gift is something I would imagine you do already. As grandparents, we have authority in the spiritual realm for the lives of our family. I begin every day by clothing myself, my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren with the armor of God and ask him to shelter us all under his almighty wings. In addition to praying for your grandchildren’s daily needs, I would encourage you to pray scripture over them. There are so many beautiful promises in the Bible and as God’s adopted children we can claim them all.
Years ago, when I read The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent, I was convicted of the importance of passing along the blessing to those we love. I know some cultures hesitate to do this because they don’t want to make others too proud, but I believe that is a mistake. Our grandchildren literally hear thousands of messages a day through the media that they aren’t enough. They desperately need to hear words of grace, encouragement, and hope. Be sure to bless them for more than their accomplishments, but more for their their character and what makes them uniquely them.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all leaving a legacy behind. These gifts will help us leave a legacy of grace when we are gone. What will your legacy be? How will your grandchildren remember you? As a professional public speaker, I have had thousands of introductions over the years, but the one that blesses me the most came from my granddaughter. She had called me up at 2:30 one morning asking me to come to her college dorm as one of the girls on their floor was having a crisis and girls didn’t know how to help. I remember walking into that dorm room filled with worried, crying young women and my granddaughter said, “This is my grandma. She’s a prayer warrior.” That blessed me and humbled me. That is a legacy I want to leave behind.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster