Sunday July 24th is the second World Day for Elderly and Grandparents. The theme for this year is “In old age they will still bear fruit” (Psalm 92:15). The ‘fruit’ of grandparents’ relationship with their grandchildren can often be seen years after their death. It was evident in a lad who used to risk his life every school-day afternoon by walking across the top of a 15 ft wall.
I once lived in a flat overlooking a large courtyard to the left and a row of houses running alongside it to the right. Dividing the two was a very high wall. Every afternoon I would see the lad, who looked to be about 15, walking gingerly along the top of it before dropping down into a garden via the roof of a shed and a dustbin. One day we met on the pavement outside and I asked him why he did it. His mum was at work, he explained, and when he came home from school the front door was locked and it was the only way he could get in. He climbed onto the high wall via a garden shed in another garden. Did he realise how dangerous it was? He shrugged. Did he know God had a plan for his life that didn’t include life changing injuries from falling off a high wall? He said his grandma used to talk like that, about God having a plan for him. His grandma used to go to church, and she believed in God but he wasn’t sure about that, himself. His mother didn’t go to church. But his grandma had clearly sown the seed and I thought that one day, with the right people it might be watered and flower.
Often, since then, I’ve encountered the ‘grandma effect.’ We see it in Timothy 1:5 “I am 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.”
The Scriptures show ‘grandparenting’ as being a special blessing. Proverbs 17:6 “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” Particularly poignant is the scene in Genesis 48:9, where Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” And he said, “Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.’ Grandparenting is also a spiritual role.
The book of Ruth also shows God’s blessing with grandchildren. The story of Ruth and Naomi rarely fails to touch the heart. It’s about God and how He restores those who belong to Him often when they have lost hope. He restructures lives as they should be. When Naomi returned to Bethlehem after the death of her two sons, she told people not to call her ‘Naomi’, which means ‘pleasant’, but ‘Mara’ which means bitter. Naomi has lost her husband and her sons and feels empty. The story unfolds and Ruth marries Boaz, a respected business man who is a distant relative of her late father-in-law. Ruth has been childless in her first marriage to Naomi’s son, but now it says that God causes her to conceive. ‘Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.’ Ruth 4: 16. Naomi was now a grandmother with a purpose in life, in the scriptural pattern.
In celebrating elderly people and grandparents, we are acknowledging the wisdom of God’s design for our lives.