Though through the stress and strain of life
my thread of trust may break
the cable of his faithfulness
no storm can ever shake.
These ladies… each have left and are leaving a legacy that has the name of Jesus all over it. Women who have shown me how to love uncomfortably, fiercely, beyond “safety.” They walk the talk to the end of the dock. I knew my grandma well, but never got to meet “daddy” as my mom still refers to him. By all accounts he was a quiet and humble person, with a core of unwavering devotion and fierce loyalty to Jesus.
My grandma, likewise, stood with quiet zealous resolve against injustice and cowardice veiled in the unconvincing guise of godliness, teaching her daughters how to recognize and boldly confront both the stark and nuanced differences between keeping up a neatly manipulated illusion of godliness and the real thing. Each of them in turn has gone on to devote their lives to the service of others in deeply genuine and personally sacrificial ways.
While a life that overflows with the life of Jesus will far outreach the bounds of genetic relations, rippling outward in concentric circles, I owe so much to this kind of heritage that goes back for countless generations. Friends, a godly heritage such as this is not something that is passed down to your children and their children easily. It is hard soul work, involving so much more than ensuring your children are properly catechized.
One of the most frequent indictments God launches at Israel in the Old Testament is that they have forgotten his faithfulness. We are more likely to use forgetfulness as an excuse for something. But when forgetfulness translates into turning away from the one whose faithfulness never fails, the one who rejoices over us with loud singing, the one who will never leave us or forsake us… it is not an excuse for anything. And is itself inexcusable. Generally speaking, this forgetfulness takes no more than one generation to set in. This is why we are told to tell of his faithfulness from one generation to the next. Share not only the truths of God in a general sense, share with your children his faithfulness to you personally. No, you won’t unload this all at once on them, but over time as you walk with them through their own struggles.
Tell them how he has provided for you when you had nothing. Tell them how he broke through your hard heart to love a difficult person. Tell them how many times you would have walked out on your marriage, had “the cable of his faithfulness” not been so secure. Recount to them his marvelous deeds… the ones that you have been witness to in your own lives or others. And live before the next generation as one who doesn’t just have a tidy list of answers to a series of questions, but one who has tested all of those answers in the crucible of a surrendered life. Show them in word and deed the gleam of what you contain within your cracked earthen vessel, what is left when the dross of every trial or affliction or battle has been removed.
That treasure is all Jesus. And all for Jesus. Don’t pretend you can even contain that treasure neatly within a carefully groomed exterior. Indeed, a life filled with Jesus WILL overflow because he is simply uncontainable.
God would have us altar builders, passing pilgrims.
Naught we leave, save an altar,
just an altar
where our children’s hearts may cleave.
When the night steals o’er the desert,
lo, they tread the paths we trod.
Oh, what joy if they shall find there
steadfast altar, Savior, God.
Back to Bethel He shall bring them,
Show them visions of His bliss.
Yes, those very rocks shall teach them
how unchangeable He is.
God would have us altar builders
Daily in earth’s desert ways;
from the stumbling stones about us
Rearing monuments of praise.
God would have us altar builders
lifting up a sacrifice,
ever leaving, by our embers,
what points others to the skies.
Edith Hays Mulligan
(My Great Grandmother)