What my grandchildren teach me

God speaks to us in all kinds of ways if we’re ready to listen. Jackie Parsons shares what she’s been learning through her grandchildren

A friend and fellow grandmother bought me a plaque which reads: “If I’d have known grandchildren were this much fun, I’d have had them first.” And it’s true. They are the most tremendous fun! Lately though I’ve realised that they are also teaching me a lot. Of course, they’ve taught me how to use YouTube; how to set a password on my phone; how to post a photo on Facebook and so on. But I’m thinking more now about life lessons that they have inadvertently taught me.

Whenever something they’ve said or done strikes me as important I make a mental note to think about it afterwards. What have I learned from this? Does the Bible have anything relevant to say about it? How can I pray in response? Here are just a few stories to show you what I mean.

By the hair on my chinny-chin-chin

One of the unfortunate side effects of growing older is the sudden appearance, all unbidden, of those nasty coarse black hairs on the chin. Kiera has recently noticed them and now regularly inspects my chin for these unwelcome intruders. At first I felt rather uncomfortable with such close scrutiny. But now I welcome the gentle touch of her fingers locating these uninvited guests. Whenever she points one out, I immediately fetch the magnifying mirror and tweezers, and pluck out the offender. She is actually saving me a great deal of time anxiously inspecting my chin. The problem once located can be swiftly dealt with.

And it got me thinking

Is this how God deals with us? When his Spirit gently places his finger on something in our lives that needs plucking out, is it not the simplest thing for us to confess that thing and get rid of it, receiving forgiveness through the blood of Christ? So very often I shy away from bringing a problem, conflict or other issue to him, fearing his rebuke. Yet when I do eventually pluck up courage to pray about the ‘thing’, I find that he is always loving, always compassionate, “slow to anger, abounding in love” as Psalm 103 so beautifully puts it. The final verses of Psalm 139 sum it up perfectly: “Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

So, I pray:

Lord, let me welcome your all-seeing Spirit to search my heart. Thank you that you love to forgive and to lead us to the fullness of life that you promised.

Actions speak louder than words

Because of his complex orthopaedic history, my husband has an ongoing problem with pain. Most of the time he bears it bravely, but just sometimes when a sudden surge of pain hits him, he cannot help but cry out. When this happens, it has become almost a subconscious habit with me that I stop what I’m doing, go to him, put my arms around him and offer what comfort I can.

One day, I was in another room and heard the familiar cry. I came into the kitchen to find three-year-old Ruby with her little arms clasped around her grandfather’s leg, while he had tears in his eyes! I had no idea she had been watching me so closely.

And it got me thinking

I may never know the impact that my words and actions have on my grandchildren. Ruby’s recent school report commented on her caring attitude towards other pupils when they are in distress. Perhaps her subconscious imitation of my actions may have contributed to this.

Recently, I came across a book which had been presented to me at my baptism – The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. And isn’t this our aim as Christians, to imitate Christ? The apostle Paul was so confident in his ability to do this that he wrote to the church in Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I’m not sure I share Paul’s confidence, but the thought certainly moves me to pray.

So I pray:

Father, let me be aware that my actions may often speak louder than my words. May I always offer to my grandchildren a faithful example of what it means to follow you.

Delighting in your company

It has become a tradition for my granddaughters that their birthday treat from us is to have a day out with nanny, which includes lunch and shopping, during which, among other things, the birthday present is purchased. Imagine my delight when, this year, on her actual birthday, Izzy chose to spend the day with nanny! At 12 years old she could easily have said she would like to have the money and go shopping with her friends instead. But she didn’t. Her free choice was to spend several hours of her birthday with me. We had a great time, enjoyed one another’s company and bought the presents she chose. I felt honoured and privileged and blessed.

And it got me thinking

If I received this much pleasure from my granddaughter wanting to spend time with me, then how much more must the heart of our heavenly Father swell with pleasure and pride when we, his daughters, choose to spend our time with him. We could so easily be rushing about doing, but he loves it when we take time to just be with him.

The Bible is just brimming over with God’s desire to be ‘with his people’. So many times the Lord invites us to simply come to him. My favourite expression of his love and desire for our company comes in the Song of Songs, when this invitation is offered: “My beloved spoke and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me’” (Song of Songs 2:10).

So I pray:

Lord, never let me underestimate the value you place on my spending time with you. Help me to delight in these times as much as you do.

All this goes to show that however old we are, we have so much more to learn! How gracious of our heavenly Father to give us such precious teachers as our grandchildren. My prayer is that I will always have eyes to see and ears to hear whatever it is that he is trying to teach me through them.