Monday, July 20, 2009

Grace over the Long Haul

One of the main reasons I went to Pennsylvania recently was to attend the Mattocks reunion. This yearly event was started shortly after my dad's mom died, about 9 years ago now. It is generally held on the weekend of the fourth of July and for awhile was on a Sunday, which meant we couldn't attend with any regularity. Then it got moved to Saturday, but only after we had moved to Arkansas; all that to say, I had not been to it in six years. Many of my cousins and second cousins I had not seen in longer than that...maybe 10 years.

I occasionally have a wild hair to attend "family stuff" and Robb never tells me no because he knows how much I miss living close to my enormous connection of relatives. (Mom was one of seven, Dad one of six, with many of those siblings living in a 20 mile radius.)

My dad's parents weren't exactly church people in my recollection. They weren't always nice. I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but it was a classic story how my Grandpa was drinking one night and the boys scattered, hiding in the barn. "Come on out, boys" he called, all the while holding a gun. He was a hard worker and he gave my sisters and I twenty dollars once, just for singing him a song. But you always had to watch your step around his big brass tobacco spitune and quart of Budweiser, which sat somewhere close to a bottle of Tobasco sauce that he put on everything he ate. My Grandma was equally generous to us and I often think of her sage saying "There's many a slip between the cup and the lip." She was a country cook and I can still taste her fresh from the oven peanut butter and chocolate cake. But she was a terribly anxious lady, always suspecting people of the darkest of deeds. My brother liked to get a rise out of her, and told her he was marrying a Mormon (actually she was Catholic) which Grandma incredulously pronounced, "A NORMAN?!!!"

All that to say, that I found it interesting to observe that all of my dad's siblings are church folks. They are not just "pew-warmers," but deeply involved and committed followers of Jesus. My Uncle David is a pastor, a warm-hearted man who loves people. Many of my uncles and cousins are deacons in their churches. One cousin is a foster parent, taking in the most difficult-to-place primary and teen-aged boys. Another cousin is a missionary. Some of them are trying to adopt orphans from Haiti. Most are active in their churches as youth leaders, children's programs and more. I was so impressed with my teen-age second cousins who played dastardly games devised by my hilarious cousin Becky, with not so much as a sour expression, let alone a bad attitude. As a group, the family decided to donate a portion of the "family kitty" to a charity or ministry. As a whole, they are a force for incredible good.

All that to say, that sometimes in ministry, we are focussed on life-change in the right now. We love the dramatic change, the overnight transformation. I don't know when exactly my grandparents became Christians, but in the later years they were gentler, especially my Grandpa. Of course there were ugly things that happened over the years, but it is clear that God changes people over the long haul, over the span of generations, for great good. My bond with this family goes much deeper than just blood. It is stronger and deeper for having been adopted into a larger family of people who have been beautified and transformed by God and his grace.


CK Lunchbox said...

That was amazingly well-said. Made me tear up. (Guess Grandma was right about that Norman.) Wished we could've crossed paths.

Life with Kaishon said...

Too bad he didn't really marry a Norman. That would have been special.

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