I recently changed out most of my picture frames.
It began because my nephew was just born, and I’m crazy obsessed with him. In the process, I realized several of the photos I had framed didn’t really matter to me anymore.
Among the many photo swaps I made, I framed a picture of my Gramps, and I want to tell you why.
My Gramps and I got to know each other when I went off to college in Indiana. He lived about a five-hour drive away in Ohio, and I began visiting him on long breaks when I couldn’t fly home to California. Widowed when I was just a baby, he moved back to Ohio from California to take care of his ill mother. He was a grumpy, cussing, “I make my own chew” old cowboy of a man, but deep down he loved people so well. He definitely loved and spoiled me! The whole little town of Hillsboro seemed to know when I came in for a visit.
I prayed for him often. He didn’t believe God could ever forgive him for the things he’d done in his life. He told me once he didn’t deserve grace. He’d sometimes share bits of his past with me, from mistakes he’d made to past regrets. I could always tell there was a longing to be set free of those things, he just didn’t know how to let go.
When I visited, he would take me to church, but just drop me off and wait for me out in his car. He never wanted to go in and always said he didn’t want to be preached at, that he’d already heard it. However, he knew God was important so he always made sure to take me. It wasn’t like he forced me, but it also wasn’t really an option. : ) It was awkward then, being dropped off at a church where I didn’t know anyone. Now that I look back, I see it was his attempt at letting God in, somehow. Like he was doing his duty by making sure I stayed right with God, when he felt like he had failed.
He would tell me things like, “this is where a good girl like you belongs on sunday morning, not a nasty old man like me.” I would usually giggle and tell him he was wrong and that he should just come with me, but he never would. Sadly, I knew he never felt worthy enough to confront things with God. He definitely didn’t want to deal with being judged by people, either.
I got to walk through a lot of things with ol’ Gramps: the death of his girlfriend of 10 years , a couple hospital scares, and his 2nd wedding to name a few. (Ya, somehow he always landed the ladies, even at 80.) It didn’t seem like I had spent much time with him when you count the days, but it was solid time. Good time.
My last visit with him, before I left on the World Race in 2009, I feared I might not ever see him again. I didn’t usually bring up God intentionally into conversation, but just told the truth when conversation went there. However, that day I remember being very intentional. I told him how much I loved him, and how much I believed God was still pursuing his heart and pouring out grace to him, and all he had to do was receive it.
I remember the look on his face as he hugged me. It was a look that said, “I know, but I don’t know if I could actually take God up on his offer.”
That was the last time I ever saw him. I remember crying on my drive home, having to really leave him in God’s hands.
However, my last phone call with him was more than I could have asked for.
It was a little bit after I got home from the World Race. He told me he’d finally made things right with God. He said I didn’t have to worry anymore about him, that he finally talked it out with Jesus and had peace in his heart about his life and about his death. He died about a year later. While I was sad I never got to see him again, I couldn’t have been more full of joy knowing he was with Jesus. The realization of God being faithful to His promise when God asked me to “leave him in My hands,” is one of my favorite moments with God. Ever.
There are a lot of people I’m praying for who don’t know Jesus. I’ve been praying for them for years. There’s been people I’ve prayed for who I’ll never know if they invited Christ into their lives. Not knowing can sometimes drive us insane.
When prayers aren’t answered the way I think they should be, it’s easy to lose hope. When I don’t understand, it is easier to stuff my doubts away than to confront them. Stuffing my doubts typically leads me to forget praying for people altogether. I become selfish in my pursuit of God and lose sight of His Kingdom’s Purpose for my friends and family.
But my Gramps was one of the answered prayers, and his memory gives me hope that years of praying for someone can actually matter.
My photo of Gramps sits on my bookshelf right by my bed. It reminds me that even when I don’t get to see the results of my prayers, God is still working through them. And, I’m thankful God gave me this one big answered prayer where I did get to see the results. It gives me hope to trust God into the unknown world of pain and suffering, beyond where my earthly understanding tries to justify the answers. It reminds me that God is so much bigger than me, that He is full of grace for me, and that he’s constantly pursuing the hearts of my loved ones beyond what I could ever do for them.
For every prayer and concern that leaves me frustrated, I like that I can remember my Gramps and rest in the promise of God’s goodness and Sovereignty. All I have to do is love those around me, and let God tug on their heart strings. That’s His job, not mine.
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.