Grandpa is the reason I believe in God.
You would think it was because I often walked into their house to find him praying or reading his bible. And that probably has something to do with it. You might think that it’s because of the way he loved to sing about how God made such a difference in his life, in his special bluegrass kind of way. And that probably had something to do with it, too. I doubt seriously that it has anything to do with the fact that he had a somewhat distorted sense of humor (that I inherited), causing him to think that it was funny to paint the tail of one of my cats bright red.
But, when I think about my grandpa, I think about how his life modeled the character of God. Grandpa had a lot of hobbies, and it seems that these hobbies gave us all a glimpse of who God is.
Grandpa was a builder. I know that Grandpa used to build bridges up in the mountains. I’ve driven by the little chapel that he helped build as well and I’m just amazed at how something as dreary and bland as a rock could be made into something so beautiful. Grandpa was able to make something useful out of something that would normally be useless. And the fact that he built bridges, allowing people to cross over things is a picture of God’s grace to me. How many times have I seen God work in much the same way. Taking dreary moments and circumstances in our lives and making something beautiful out of them. Giving grace that allows us to get over hurt and anger.
Grandpa was a planter. I’ve always joked that if there was ever a famine in the land, Grandma and Grandpa would have enough food stored away to feed us all for months! To say Grandpa had a green thumb would be an understatement. He knew how to garden better than anyone I’ve ever met – and the food from his garden was the best I’ve ever had. Corn, squash, tomatoes, green beans, watermelon . . . the list goes on. He knew the art of planting and nurturing that allowed something to grow into its full potential. He knew that having good soil was important, so he worked hard to make sure the ground was ready for planting. He knew that water was important, so he welcomed the rain. He knew that protection was important, so he had funny looking scarecrows out in the garden. And, isn’t that a picture of our God? Knowing that we need to be in areas that allow us to grow, sending rain that either cleanses or strengthens and giving us the protection of his love to keep things away that could potentially be dangerous.
But the thing about Grandpa that most shows me the character of God was his ability to find things that had been lost. Grandpa was a finder. Metal detector in hand, many days you could find him at a local park or even in the yard. The detector would sound and he would kneel down with his handy pocket knife (that was surely found on one of these expeditions) and gently cut away the dirt to find the tiny piece of metal that sounded the alarm. He would wipe away the mud, anticipating what he might have found, and clean the item to reveal its identity. There in his hand he would hold a penny or a ring or a silver dollar. All with their own stories of how they were lost. Grandpa was searching – not haphazardly, but with purpose – and he found things that had been thrown away, thrown aside, discarded, deemed worthless, or just forgotten. He found things that were of great worth, but had been covered in dirt and grime for so long that they weren’t easily recognized. And he cleaned them off and brought them home.
I can’t think of a more fitting picture of how Grandpa showed me the character of God. A God who makes the effort to find his children, gently wiping away the dirt of life and pain, lovingly takes them in his hands to show them their great worth, and brings them home.
And now, God, who found Grandpa a long time ago, has brought him home to heaven. Grandpa is seeing the one who wiped away the dirt of sin and who lovingly kept him in the palm of His hand for so many years. Grandpa is at home in heaven. And I know that God welcomed him with open arms, saying “Well done”. He lived a life that showed us God’s heart and now it is our turn to do the same. May we all be builders, not ones who tear down. Planters and nurturers, not ones who let others whither. Finders of the worth of others, not ones who discard them. May we all be models of the character of God and let Grandpa’s life continue to challenge us to be better, love and give more, and show grace where it’s needed most.
I miss you so much already Grandpa. And am so thankful that you left the legacy that inspires me.