I am a grandfather. It feels weird to say it.
At 58 years old, it is fairly typical to have grandchildren. My first grandson was born when I was 54. He’s now 4 years old and his brother is almost 2 years old. What’s even more shocking is I am married to a grandmother. How is this possible?
And the bigger question for me is: how can I feel so immature and childish and be a grandfather? Why didn’t someone tell me that when I reached the age of 58 I wouldn’t feel mature, wise, or complete?
We’ve just returned to Oklahoma City after a week at the beach with all of our kids and the two grandsons. Our oldest son and his amazing wife are the proud parents of the two grandsons. Our daughter, who was born with a passion to be a wife and mother, is still waiting for the partner that will facilitate this dream. (I frequently tell her that she is so spectacular that she may have to wait awhile for someone to come along who can appreciate and value her “spectacularness”). Our youngest son recently asked his fabulous girlfriend of two years to marry him. She said yes and came to the beach with us.
In case you haven’t heard me say it lately, I’m insanely proud of my kids and the choices they have made and continue to make in all aspects of life. I may have said this in Restored, but Kim and I often thank God that our three children love Jesus, love His church, graduated from college, have tremendous career paths, and still love us. We call that a parental home run.
It was fun to watch our daughter, daughter-in-law, and future daughter-in-law enjoy being together. They love and live as true sisters. We watched our two sons enjoy some time together out in the ocean where they could most likely talk about their crazy parents in the privacy of the waves. It was fun to watch the grandsons we love being wrapped in a beach towel and in the arms of “KK,” the designated name for their grandma I married 34 years ago. And every now and then, the grandsons decided they needed to include me, too.
I heard some of the most special words ever spoken: “Pops, come swim with us!” As painful as it was to remove my shirt and reveal a 58-year-old body that has never been to the gym, I nearly ripped that shirt off when the invitation came to jump in the water with those two amazing boys who call me Pops.
When our daughter-in-law was pregnant with our first grandchild, I was frequently stopped in the halls of our church by people who would go on and on and on about how amazing it was going to be for Kim and me to have a grandchild. I was trying to get to all three of our worship venues, running between the five services to be “live” on the stages, if only for a moment, before they had to later see me on a large screen. I was busy. I was in a hurry. I did not have time for all the “grandparent” commentary.
And, on occasion, these overzealous people had the audacity to pull out their phones and show me pictures. These people seemed to have lost their minds. I would walk on by, promising that I would never behave in such a manner once my grandchild was born.
And then it happened.
Kim and I anxiously awaited our turn in the waiting room at the same hospital where all three of our kids were born, waiting to see this new grandson, eager to hold him. We finally had that “moment” where we held this little boy for the first time. Wouldn’t you know it, the strangest thing happened to me. I went to church that weekend and stopped everyone to let them know how amazing it was to be a grandfather. To make matters worse, I kept pulling out my phone to show everyone his picture.
You might find it rather sickening that I put a photo of this little boy on the big screens in every auditorium as I started my message that weekend. It was official. I had become a grandfather, one that was just as excited and obnoxious as all those others in the same club. A little over two years later, when our second grandson arrived, I ramped it up a notch and tweeted, posted, and commented on every possible social media outlet I could find. I was a grandfather to two boys who had completely captured my heart in a way I could never have predicted or described.
If you’re still reading this, let me give you a few reasons why this grandparent thing has so captivated Kim and me.
First, when the grandkids were born, we were able to fully enjoy, understand, and comprehend what we did not fully enjoy, understand, or comprehend when our own children were born. When Kim and I left the hospital on three different occasions with a child in a car seat, we had no clue what was ahead of us. We had no idea how hard this parenting thing was going to be. We were somewhere between being thrilled and terrified. When the grandkids came along, we could not only enjoy it, but savor the moment. And just like our parents did for us, Kim and I were eager to help at a moment’s notice.
Second, while we assume we get to enjoy our kids in their adult years, there is no guarantee we will see our grandkids in those future seasons.
The word “legacy” comes to mind. How will we as grandparents love, support, encourage, and prepare them for a future that at some point will most likely not include us?
For me, it was a wake up call that I really did have a responsibility and a privilege to be an example that my grandkids would never forget.
Third, becoming a grandfather has helped me become a better pastor. It immediately occurred to me that my influence as a pastor was generational, and not just in my own family, but in my church family.
Having been with my church now for 36 years, some of the kids I held as infants--years later did their weddings--I’m now presiding over in the infant dedication ceremonies for their children. I’m now pastoring families with four and five generations of family in our church. My grandsons represent the fourth generation of our family in our church.
What kind of leader does this call me to be as I consider the future?
On my way home from church this week, I heard a song that I first heard over twenty years ago. It may be an old song, but the words are more true for me today than they were then: “May those who come behind us find us faithful.”
It was a good reminder that my work as a pastor is not about me, or my generation, or our preferences, comforts, or traditions. It is about keeping the simple yet powerful message of Jesus as clear as I can, so those who come behind me will know Him and consider me to have been faithful.