As part of the the Maximum Grandparenting seminar, Leon Sanderson challenged us to think of a ten-word summary that we would like to leave as a legacy for our grandchildren. It might be something we would constantly repeat in their ears or it may simply summarize what it is that we want to communicate to them in various ways.
What would be your ten-word summary? What are the key words that come to your mind? Ten words is arbitrary but it does force focus, brevity and accentuation.
Many suggestions were offered but most focused on words like trust, faith, love, hope, and gratitude among others. I devised my own. I kinda like it, but I know my emphases may change with future experiences. It is meaningful to me as stated, but I know it may sound stiff to others or even vaccuous. Neverthless, at this moment–right now–these words are what I lean upon in my faith journey….and I would hope that I could pass it on to my grandchildren as well as my children–perhaps not in these exact words but hopefully the ideas and its passion. Here it is:
“Trust God’s love for you and gratefully enjoy God’s presence.”
Trust–or faith–is so difficult. Our experiences seemingly teach us to doubt and fear. Broken promises, failed relationships, painful moments with those we supposed loved us, abandonment and emotional distance create a vaccum of trust. We tend to project these onto God and thus learning to trust God’s love for us becomes difficult.
Indeed, we know ourselves too well–or perhaps not well enough. We sense that we are unworthy of love, so filled with junk that we are unlovable. Our brokenness teaches us to doubt whether anyone could really love us. We believe that if another really and fully knew us they would not truly love us.
Discovering God’s love, experiencing it, feeling it and trusting it are foundational for healthy, holy and whole living. Here is where we discern our identity: we are lovable because we are loved. When we feel loved by God, our lives become centered in his estimation of us. This is where we find our worth and value. God’s love gives to us and enables us to love others.
Joy–to enjoy–is the intent of creation. God created us to enjoy him as he enjoys us. God delights in his people just as he delighted in his own Son. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks what the primary goal of humanity is and the answer is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The glory of God is to enjoy his creation and we glorify him when we enjoy him. This is what God intended for life–joy, pleasure, delight, and he gives it to us if we would but trust his love.
We enjoy God’s presence in solitude. God comes to us in our inner world; he meets us in silence, meditation and prayer. There we listen to him, “feel after him,” and rest in his peace. To clear our heads–silence the multiple voices that distract us–is to give God the space to assure us through presence.
We enjoy God’s presence in relationships. God created us in community as a community. Our relationships mirror his own Triune relationship. Through connecting and listening to others, we connect with God who is present in holy and godly relationships. The church–the beloved community of God–is not incidental to spiritual life but a means by which God encounters us through others. When we are loved by the community we also feel the love of God.
We enjoy God’s presence in assembly. The assembly is a present experience of a future reality; it is a proleptic experience, an eschatological event. Assembled and gathered to God, we transcend time and space to join with the whole host of heaven and earth around God’s throne. Gathering with the community is no addendum to spiritual life but a means by which God promises us the future.
Gratitude–thanksgiving–is our response to God’s gracious presence. The joy of divine presence generates gratitude and it is also an act of faith in the middle of a broken world filled with hurting lives. Given God’s presence, we act in faith–we trust God’s love and declare, as an act of faith, our thanksgiving for the presence we sense.
I end every day with some statement of gratitude. At times it seems that I can only think of something minor (though it is still quite major to many, e.g., I have running water and sewage). At other times I sense the magnitude of the divine gifts to me.
But gratitude is ultimately not about the stuff and comforts of my American lifestyle. It is the praise of the God who loved me when I thought I was unlovable. It is the praise of the God who communes with me even when I feel so unworthy. I gratefully enjoy God’s presence.
A ten-word summary? Impracticable? Insufficient? Probably. But the exercise forced me to think about what I really believe is important. It focused what I really want my legacy of faith to be. Trust, love, joy, gratitude–these are the words that matter to me and they have not always been the focus of my journey.
Thanks, Leon. You challenged me to focus again and reminded me of what is truly important.
Do you have a suggestion for a ten-word summary? Share it with us.