Something I’ve been thinking about off and on for a few months is the long-term effect of Christian families, really generations, throughout time. The picture above is of my kids and I at a river where my Great Great Grandparents would let their children play.
My Great Grandfather played there as a child, as well as his daughter (my Grandmother), and cousins, etc., and now our kids, over 100+ years later on, are doing the same thing.
We recently took a short trip to their small town to look around and engage in some sentimental pondering of what we know of who they were, what their lives were like, and wonder if they ever could have imagined how important their faith was to someone as far removed from their day-to-day lives as their great-great grand-daughter?
I wonder if they realized when they were doing it, the legacy of faith they were building?
Their house built in 1852
This coming weekend is Mother’s Day weekend, and again, like every year now, I’ve seen the regular online articles claiming how awful Mother’s Day is because women are expected to still change diapers… the regular old complaining and whining and such. I’ve written posts to counter those articles before, but I thought I’d take a widely different approach this year.
What if we looked at Motherhood through the lens of something we’re building that is eternally glorious? What if we really saw for the first time, how important our “invisible,” efforts are in the lives of our children and even future generations to come?
My Great great-Grandparents were in my opinion, remarkably wonderful and kind people. They came to the US as immigrants, him being already a doctor and his wife, a happy and capable homemaker. They had 12 children, and raised them with a fiercely strong, passionate Christian faith. They were good parents, as two of their sons made overt gestures when adults to dedicate a Christian monument in the town (a giant crucifix to their, “loving parents,”) and to write a long, 20 page document detailing their parents’ characters and lives. They were clearly people who their children liked, looked up to, and respected as fellow Christians.
After my Great great grandfather died, my GG-grandmother turned their house into an inn. We’ve read that artists and writers stayed there, and she lived out her last days very happily.
These were just not ordinary people… their Christian faith and the way they devoted their lives to living it out in their community, and with their children, inspires me to take our own efforts in how we raise our kids that much more seriously. To know that their faith was a critical building block to who I am today, prompts me to pray for my own children’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and so on. To pray continual blessings over them. To pray hedges of protection around their lives. To pray that they will be able to withstand life’s hardships and trials or testings, and still pass on the faith that was birthed in our family probably 100’s of years ago (we’re not sure when… we’d probably have to look for genealogy records in their old country).
Their great-great-great grandchildren visiting their church!
Going back to see in person their house, their old church, to walk where they walked and see what they saw, it gives real meaning and understanding to all the verses where God promises that He will be faithful through generations of believers. I always thought that only meant God is the same, from generation to generation, and I’m sure that is still what it means. But I wonder if He also may have been reminding us that His promises and faithfulness proves true through literal familial generation to generation.
“And His mercy is for those who fear Him,
from generation to generation.”
I felt a strange sadness knowing that we didn’t get to, “know,” these relatives beyond what their children wrote about them (and how sweet that their children actually did!!!). And just an overwhelming longing for the wisdom that my great-great Grandmother would have given me about parenting her 12 children – a feat she did successfully, or her advice on supporting one’s husband, or on building up a community that is 98% full of Christians making the town and surrounding areas better. Thinking of her and her husband made me look at my husband and long to have 12 children with him like she managed, because he’s such a good and godly man, and our children already love him so much!
It’s sad how much wisdom from past ages is, “lost,” with time when it isn’t written down and preserved. This is why I’m working together with my own mother (who is their great-grand-daughter) on leaving a book for my own daughter and future female descendants, that will include much of the wisdom she passed down to me, which I felt was crucial to how I now live my life as a wife and mother. It may end up not being appreciated, but I feel like to not even try to deliver this information to future generations would be wrong!
After all, God does tell us we should care about the future generations of Christians,
“So even to old age and gray hair, O God,
do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your Might to another generation,
Your Power to all those to come.”
“We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord,
and His might, and the wonders that He has done.”
“Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord“
Psalm 71:18, Psalm 78:4, Psalm 102:18
But what if you didn’t have a mother who took her role seriously? What if you had a mother who always complained, or made life in your house generally miserable?
My grandmother (my mom’s mom) came from this wonderful, godly lineage, but she didn’t choose this path to be a joyful, happy mother. Yes, she had great difficulties in life, but they are no excuse for how she chose to be chronically unhappy, complaining, and verbally abusive to her children and her husband. She’s now left a legacy of warning, an example of what NOT to emulate, that my mom passed down to me (having grown up herself in a house with a mother like that). So I very much understand from a personal viewpoint, how this kind of mother, even if she does have reason to be upset or complaining or whining all the time (chronically unhappy), she still should make it priority number one to NOT allow herself to act on those feelings. Acting on those feelings are tantamount to ruining her legacy, and harming her husband and children.
Even though my grandmother came from this very same family, she didn’t truly have a relationship with God until she was on her death bed when she finally accepted Christ as her savior, that’s how stubborn and bitter she was about life. She literally lived almost an entire life wasted, and never had a good relationship with her daughter (my mom).
Even if I’m the only voice saying this out there (I’m sure I’m not, thankfully), I’m going to say it:
Don’t allow momentary afflictions to destroy
what you’re trying to build
that may last for centuries,
because YOU chose to be an unjoyful, unhappy mother.
It’s true what us mothers are building is hard work. We’re supposed to be helping children grow into adults who honor God with their entire life and being, in a world that wants very much to destroy everything Christianity stands for.
It’s true that our work goes largely unnoticed, in the crevices of unseen life. I have to admit, raising children is sometimes heart-breaking work as you feel they constantly don’t, “appreciate,” you as their mother. But the fact that it can last for generations, or that one woman can turn it back around like my mother did to redeem a family’s lost legacy, brings hope.
The Invisible Woman by Nicole Johnson –
“It started to happen gradually. I would walk into a room and say something and no one would notice. I would say, “Turn the TV down, please.” And nothing would happen. So I would get louder, “TURN THE TV DOWN PLEASE!” Finally, I would have to go over and turn the TV down myself.
And then I started to notice it elsewhere. My husband and I had been at a party for about three hours and I was ready to go. I looked over and he was talking to a friend from work and I walked over and…he kept right on talking. He didn’t even turn toward me.
That’s when I started to put it together…. He can’t see me! I’m invisible!
Then I started to notice it more and more. I would walk my son to school and his teacher would say, “Jake, who’s that with you?” And my son would say, “Nobody.” Granted, he’s just five…but NOBODY?
One night a group of us gathered and we were celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just taken this fabulous trip and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed and I was sitting there looking around at the other women at the table. I’d put my makeup on in the car on the way there, I had on an old dress because it the only thing clean, and I had my unwashed hair pulled up in a banana clip and I was feeling pretty darn pathetic. And then Janice turned to me and she said, “I brought you this.” It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. And then I read her inscription: “With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”
You can’t name the names of the people who built the great cathedrals. Over and over again, looking at these mammoth works, you scan down to find the names and it says builder unknown. They completed things not knowing that anyone would notice. There’s a story about one of the builders who was carving a tiny bird inside a beam that would be covered over by a roof. And someone came up to him and said, “Why are you spending so much time on something no one will ever see?”
It’s reported that the builder replied, “Because God sees.” They trusted that God saw everything.
They gave their whole lives for a work, a mammoth work, they would never see finished. They showed up day after day. Some of these cathedrals took over a 100 years to build. That was more than one working man’s lifetime. Day after day. And they made personal sacrifices for no credit. Showing up at a job they would never see finished for a building their name would never be on.
One writer even goes so far as to say, “No great cathedrals will ever be built again because so few people are willing to sacrifice to that degree.” I closed the book and it was as if I heard God say, “I see you. You are not invisible to me. No sacrifice is too small for me to notice. I see every cupcake baked, every sequin sewn on and I smile over every one. I see every tear of disappointment when things don’t go the way you want them to go. But remember, you are building a great cathedral. It will not be finished in your lifetime. And sadly, you will never get to live there. But if you build it well, I will.”
At times, my invisibility has felt like an affliction to me, but it not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my own pride.
It’s okay that they don’t see. It’s okay that they don’t know.
I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college, “You’re not going to believe what my mom does. She gets up at four in the morning and she bakes pies and hand bastes the turkey and she presses all the linens.” Even if I do all those things, I don’t want him to say that. I want him to want to come home. And secondly, I want him to say to his friend, “You’re gonna love it there.” It’s okay that they don’t see. We don’t work for them. We work for Him. We sacrifice for Him. They will never see. Not if we do it right, not if we do it well. Let’s pray that our work will stand as a monument to an even Greater God.