It’s a simple and humble circle of white gold, but I wear it with my own wedding ring, and it’s my most prized possession. It’s my grandmother’s wedding ring. It was given to me by my dear aunt, 20 years after the passing of my grandmother. My aunt gave it to me as a sacrificial gift. It was precious to her, too. As she gave it to me, she told me, with true generosity, “It is time.”
Other grandparents today are financially and situationally stressed. Their retirement years have been delayed due to pressing needs and commitments. Or you may be one of a multitude of grandparents who are the primarily caregivers for one or more of their grandchildren.
In fact, according to pbs.org “Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth of those have incomes that fall below the poverty line, according to census figures.” If this is your situation, you are not alone.
Regardless of your situation, if you have grandchildren, you have opportunities to have a tremendous spiritual and moral influence on their lives. As an older person, you probably have a portion of needed wisdom, time, attention and love to share with this generation of children.
Today’s kids are living in a culture where the needle on the cultural moral compass is spinning.
Psalm 92:14 encourages us in our older years. It says of the righteous, “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” That fruit will look different for different people. For grandparents, their own grandchildren are a special and precious assignment from God. Their ministry to their families can bear great fruit.
Your Influence through Prayer
Your grandchildren need not live in proximity to you, and you need not relate to them fully, for you to pray generously for them. To not do so is to abandon one of your greatest opportunities to impact their lives. Your prayers can direct the course that they take as they make choices throughout their childhood and young adulthood.
It says a lot to a child when his or her grandma or grandpa says to them, “I pray for you every day! How can I pray for you? What is important to you?” Your interest in them, and your following up and asking about how God has answered your prayers for them, is important. You example of faith in God and your deep concern for them can make an impact on the way that they see God.
In the event that your grandchild rejects God and His love, there is all the more reason for you to pray! Many testimonies include the words “My grandmother (or grandfather) prayed for me for years.” Imagine all of the people who would never have seen heaven, had their grandparents not prayed. Your prayers are being heard, and will be answered.
Your Influence through Attention
The unconditional affection and love of a grandparent can infuse a child with self-worth and value. Even when children and adolescents seem to take such attention for granted, its consistency in their lives nourishes them. It can sustain them when life throws social left-curves and rejection. Acceptance is rare in the world. Grandparents can reassure kids of their value to them, and to God.
The Apostle Paul had a special relationship with a young man named Timothy. This is what Paul wrote to him in 2 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.” It’s clear that Timothy’s mother and grandmother poured into him spiritually and it bore great fruit.
It’s interesting that Paul gives credit to Timothy’s grandmother and mother and honors them for their part in Timothy’s ministry. Many grandparents have the potential to pour into their grandchildren in such a way. What would Timothy have been without their influences?
Your Influence through Testimony
Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” This verse reminds us that we need to be intentional about remembering and relating what God has done in our lives. It’s important.
Psalms 145:4 says, ”One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” Your testimony gives God the credit for all that is good in your life. When God has blessed us, it’s our job to show our children and grandchildren this connection.
Your Influence through Validation
God spoke frequently about ancestors in Scripture. He showed the significance of family lines by addressing people by their forefathers' names. For example, Genesis 37, which is about Joseph, begins verse 2 with, “This is the account of Jacob’s family line.” The Bible doesn’t say, “This is the account of Joseph,” even though this is what it is. God cares about who we came from.
When my daughter sings beautifully, she knows that came from Grandma Nancy. When my son shows aptitude in mechanical things, he knows “he got that” from Grandpa Fred, who is quite a handyman. My daughter’s interest in textiles was handed down from my mother, and so on. Another daughter's concern for the downtrodden mirrors her other grandpa's concerns. Practically and spiritually, my kids have inherited wonderful things.
Our children understand that they are who they are because of the genetic and spiritual make-up of the grandparents who came before them. As grandparents, it’s important to help the kids to make these connections. This isn't about boasting (though that has happened!). It's about acknowledging where their gifts originate. It's teaching gratitude and stewardship. These things are best taught by the people who have already stewarded these gifts.
Grandparents should try to notice their grandchildren earthly gifts, and their spiritual ones. It’s important for kids to feel part of something bigger than them, and to feel validated in their gifts and purpose. Sometimes a grandparent had fewer opportunities, or made different choices, or lacked encouragement. Even stories of the boats that you missed can be valuable tools used to guide your grandchildren.
In a world where kids are taught that so much is random, you can help them see that they have destiny and purpose. You can be their cheerleaders. You can believe in them and God’s purposes for them, even when no one else seems concerned. Your approval validates them and helps them believe in themselves. If you think that they can succeed in life, they will be more likely to believe that they can, too.
Your Influence through Blessing
In Genesis 48:9, Israel (also called Jacob), Joseph’s father, desired that his grandchildren receive this blessing. This verse says “‘They are the sons God has given me here,’ Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, ‘Bring them to me so I may bless them.’” This is a very important thing that you can do for your grandchildren; bless them.
Genesis 32:26 tells the story of Jacob wrestling all night with a man, believed to be an angel. Why did he wrestle? The verse says, “Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’” Jacob was desperate for blessing.
This is true of all of our children. Some people will go their whole lives seeking someone to bless them. You can do it ceremoniously, or quietly and repeatedly. The important thing is to do it, to say “I bless you.” A blessed child is more confident and enriched to walk forward in their lives. He or she is also more equipped with God's help, His blessing.
Blessing involves acceptance and purpose. To bless a person generationally is to ask God to bestow on a person all that is needed to walk in their destiny. It is to pass on the blessings that you, yourself have received, and more. To bless a person is to demonstrate that you believe in them and are asking God to rain on their life. Grandparents have the power, and even responsibility, to bless and thus empower their grandchildren.
All children need older people in their lives: a neighbor, an older aunt or uncle, or a church friend.
Other grandparents are stolen by illness, or distance, or busyness, or family problems, or other priorities. If you are a grandparent who is disconnected from your grandchild, it’s never too late to ask God to help you establish, or re-establish a relationship with that grandchild. Remember how important families are to God. He encourages your desire to fill your place.
If you are in your grandchild’s life, praise God! Never underestimate your significance in his or her life. It’s exciting to see your grandchild grow up, but it’s a joy to see your grandchild grow and mature in the Lord. It’s an honor to watch as they take their place in His Kingdom. In God's eyes, they are an extension of you. May you be blessed as you fulfill your calling as a grandparent.