Last week, my life got flipped upside down. On one side, my husband and I celebrated our daughter’s 2nd birthday on last Monday. But by Tuesday afternoon, I found out from my mother that my grandfather passed away at the age of 84. I can’t express how much that broke my heart for many different reasons, but I was heartbroken because on Saturday I was telling my husband how much I wanted to travel back up to Virginia to visit him because I knew he didn’t have much time left. So after the news broke, we did travel up there for a few days, attended the funeral and burial, and then we came home. It’s been a long week and a half for me, but I have taken the time to reflect on a lot of things on my grandfather’s life, and I’ll share a few of those things here.
Work, work, and more work
My grandfather had a work ethic that I have yet seen matched, except by some former Mennonites during hay season in Colorado. I literally saw him work from sun up til dark virtually every day of my life. When I was little, he worked at a cookie factory downtown, but he always had a large working farm. When he retired from the factory, he did his farm work even harder. He grew fields and fields of corn, greens, kale, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, turnips, peas, butter beans, and more. He kept chickens, goats, and pigs. He slaughtered hogs every fall for most of my life. He cut trees and chopped wood because they had a wood stove as the main heat source for the house. He would cut the grass, trim the hedges and the trees. He did all of the maintenance around the house and farm, even building fences and adding on to his house. He went to the market to sell his produce and the freshly ground sausage he had made every year. He also loved to hunt squirrels, deer, and rabbits. And he made several trips a year to do some deep sea fishing, always bringing home full coolers so that his family had plenty to eat. He worked all the time, and he always wore this beat up straw hat, long sleeve work shirt, Dickies work pants, and some heavy boots. I always thought the most disgusting thing was when I would run up to say hi, and he would swing his straw hat on my head and I felt his hot sweat on my forehead from his hat…..it was soooo gross!
Yet, my grandfather did much more than that. He faithfully served as a deacon at his church for over 50 years, and he was the chairman of the deacon board for 35 of those years. He sung in the choir. He served on committees within the church and within the local community. He taught Sunday School, administered the church’s Missionary Fund, and did whatever he could do to serve and support the church. As a deacon, he actually visited the sick and shut-in (you know that list of people you always hear about in Baptist churches, but you never see them). He visited those people, sometimes weekly, but always at least twice a month my grandfather would stop his work early to take a shower, put on some fresh clothes, and visit those people who couldn’t get out. More than anything, I remember him doing that, regardless of the criticism he heard from my grandmother and my aunt. He always went. He went to visit people when he was tired, when he had a long day, when he wasn’t feeling the best. He just always considered them to be much more important than himself.
And yet, out of everything that struck me as I reflected on his life, I was awed by the fact that my grandfather always worked in view of eternity. He worked fully knowing that one day he would die and that he would have to give an account for everything that he did in this life to the Lord. Even when he was getting older and I was more concerned that he properly rested, I remember him telling me that he figured he would keep on working until “the good Lord calls” him home. He always said he wasn’t dead yet. And then he did this work without really ever complaining or mumbling. I don’t know how many times he would get pissed off or frustrated, but he didn’t take it out on us ever. He just kept working. He never had a huge fancy or nice house. Even when they could afford it, he never got rid of the wood stove or any of the nicer “normal” amenities you see in people’s houses. His children, picking up on his work ethic, worked hard and have nicer houses and luxury items and other things. But my grandfather just kept on doing what he did, knowing that this life and material wealth was not his goal at all, but that heaven was his goal. Truly, heaven was always his goal. He said that he wouldn’t rest until he got there.
Making it personal
My grandfather’s work ethic definitely influenced his children and us grandchildren, some more than others. And this message of working hard is always prevalent in the world today. However, what is different is the application. Why should we work hard? What are we working for? If our lives don’t get any easier, is the work worth it? When do we get to stop working? When can we just enjoy life? As a Christian, I think that we should all consider these questions. If our profession of faith is true, than our knowledge of God and our understanding of His Word will directly influence the answers to these questions in our lives. Personally, as I thought through these things, I realized that 1) I don’t work enough and 2) I sometimes work with the wrong motives.
Now, when I say that I don’t work enough, I don’t mean that being a staying at home mom is light and easy compared to having a “real” job out in this world. But what I do mean is that there is still much more work I could do that I don’t. I could serve on committees. I could volunteer for various organizations and causes that I know to be good and God-honoring. (Granted, we are working on the membership process for one church here) but I could find ways to faithfully serve in church, even if it is just dropping by to see some of the older people in the congregation. So there’s plenty of work for me to be doing that I don’t know. Then, with the work that I am doing, I could find ways to improve on what I do or find ways to do it more efficiently.
However, I had to consider my heart and my motives in all of this, and I realize that I sometimes do things for the wrong motives. Now, I’ve mentioned how my husband and I are working all the time to pay down our debts (evening making those debt thermometers on a poster in our bedroom to chart our progress), and we are still working. We paid off my car early in February, and we were able to pay off his car in March. Truly, we give God all the glory for that! Yet, I’ll be honest, there are things that I would like to have in this life. Like, I would love to have a beautiful home and a huge kitchen. I’d love to take vacations to beautiful places. I’d love to live without the restraint of budgets and debt…just love it! But when I’m working with these things in mind, I don’t have the right view. I’m working to improve my life here, rather than working for my home with the Lord.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I believe we shouldn’t be working to pay off our debts, absolutely not. But I’ve had to check myself and realize that the things in this life will never satisfy me the way I want them to. There will always be something else that pops up, some new gadget to have, some piece of technology that people will swear you can’t live without. It will always be something. But in the Christian, our ultimate satisfaction will always be God Himself. Nothing will ever fill us, satisfy us, or be enough for us other than Christ alone. And if I live my life always thinking about what I never got to have or what I really want next, I am living a very wasted life, and I am in danger of being swept away and led astray by the cares of this world.
To sum this all up, I have learned from my grandfather’s life and death that our entire life should be fully dedicated and devoted to the Lord. From being diligent in our everyday work, to caring for our homes and families, to faithfully serving the church, and to loving others far more than we love ourselves, we should spend our lives living in view of the Lord and our eternal destination. If anything we should care far less about having things here so that there is nothing holding us back from laying hold of Christ even more. We should see a real connection between loving the Lord and really loving His body in real, tangible ways that our actually helpful to people. Resting on the Sabbath day should mean more to us because we have been pouring everything out Monday through Saturday. And we should keep in mind that our eternal rest will be our ultimate reward. Thus, as long as we have breath in our bodies, we have work to do. And you keep on working, even when you’re being criticized, talked about, or even alone because people (even loved ones) will refuse to help. You keep on working. You keep on serving the Lord with your whole life.
I thank God for my grandfather, for his life and his example. I thank God for blessing me with the privilege of being one of his grandchildren, and the role he played in my life when his own son (my father) passed away in 1995. I thank God for his faithfulness. I know that on that last day, I will see him again, and I want to have lived a life like his….where my work speaks for itself. May we all diligently strive to enter into that rest. (Hebrews 4:11)
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. – Hebrews 3:7-14