Blake’s parents weren’t people of faith, nor were his grandparents, brothers, or sister. He learned a bit about Jesus at primary school. And something stuck. And when he came to choose a secondary school, the Christian one seemed best. And he learned some more.
Blake went on to marry the daughter of deeply committed Christian parents where vibrant faith seemed to run in their families back before the foundation of the earth. About that time, passages like Deuteronomy 7:9 got him thinking:
‘Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.’
Then just after the birth of his daughter his relationship with God deepened again. And he wished that there’d been just a smidgen of spiritual commitment in the generations before him.
Our genealogies seem to matter to us, even though these days fewer of us live in the towns where we grew up, or know the names of our great-grandparents. There’s an abiding sense that our past has shaped us in some way. Hence the growing interest in tracing family trees, TV programmes about family history, and DNA ancestry kits.
Tracing his family tree wouldn’t tell Blake anything about the values and convictions of his forebears. Still, his grandmother, though not a churchgoer, had seen the change in him. She’d been treasuring some things from her father, John, and had been waiting for the right person to entrust them to. Among those things were a couple of postcards, and a plaque that hung over John’s bed all his life from the age of nine.
—a grandmother’s treasure
The plaque reads, capitalised as below:
‘MY RESOLVE. I expect to pass through this world but once;
any GOOD THING, therefore, that I can do, or any KINDNESS
that I can show to a human being, or a WORD that I can
speak for JESUS, let me do it NOW; let me not NEGLECT
nor DEFER it; for I shall NOT PASS THIS WAY AGAIN.’
On the card were these words:
‘Count your blessings instead of your crosses,
Count your gains instead of your losses,
Count your joys instead of your woes,
Count your friends instead of your foes,
Count your courage instead of your fears,
Count your laughs instead of your tears,
Count your full years instead of your lean,
Count your kind words instead of your mean,
Count your health instead of your wealth,
Count on God instead of yourself.’
So there it was, proof for Blake of a man in his family history who sought to count on God and speak of Jesus.
We might wonder how a man like John prayed as he saw his daughter’s family and his grandson’s family choose not to follow the Jesus he did. And I suppose we might wonder whether the prayers he prayed, the hopes he hoped have indeed been answered in the gracious godly great-grandson, Blake, whose face he never saw, whose name he never knew, but whose heart would one day yearn for a great-grandfather who would have prayed those prayers and hoped those hopes.
[From our online Bible study materials “A six-session Bible study on RUTH. Drawing on a deeper love.” By Mark Greene.]