I heard someone pray once that God may give them an unbroken line of believers, starting from themselves, and going to the end–to the rapture, to the End Days.
I always thought that was a neat thought–that from now until the end, all my descendants would praise Him–or at least there would be some in each generation.
So I’ve been praying that, too: that I would have a spiritual heritage, and that I would influence not only my children, but my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, too.
It’s so easy, though, to see life with ourselves as the centrepoint.
And I guess it never really occurred to me until recently that perhaps others, in other generations, had already prayed that prayer.
My mother comes from a very Christian family. Her father was a minister, and her mother was an evangelist. Her maternal grandparents were church planters and pillars of the faith, although they erred on the side of legalism and harsh teaching a little too much for my mother’s taste. Nevertheless, I know that my grandparents prayed for me and that their faith was genuine. My grandfather had a massive stroke at 67 but lived to 93, and so all he could do later in his life was pray. His eyes were too bad to read, and he couldn’t hold books well, anyway. So pray he did, and that’s my primary memory of him.
My father, on the other hand, did not come from such a family. Or at least so I thought. My dad apparently was quite a Christian when my mother married him. He led the Christian IVCF group on campus at the University of Manitoba. But shortly after their marriage he abandoned the faith, my mother, and me.
My father’s father and I, though, were always close.
Today would have been his 100th birthday.
He died five years ago, almost to the day, just two days before his 95th birthday. Here he is with my girls:
My grandfather wasn’t overly religious, but he did in his later life attend an Anglican church that he was devoted to. I know he prayed, and I know he believed, though perhaps he wasn’t as vocal about it as I am. But there were periods in his life when he didn’t go to church at all. He was married three times because all his wives kept dying on him. My own grandmother died after 25 years of marriage of a brain tumour. The woman I knew as a child as my Nana died after 17 years of marriage of lung cancer. And the woman he married later, who was at my wedding, died after another 17 years. Some might say that Poppa didn’t have a lot of luck, but I think he was very blessed, for he loved each of his wives dearly, and each gave him a lot of joy and companionship.
But my Nana wasn’t a religious woman, and so he stopped going to church when he married her. So my memories of him as a child are not those of a religious man. And the relatives I know on my biological grandmother’s side are not religious.
So I always assumed that I didn’t have a spiritual heritage on his side.
Well, I’ve been on an organizing kick in my house recently, and yesterday I pulled out my old family Bible. It belonged to my great-grandfather, Poppa’s father. When Poppa died, I grabbed it and some other memorabilia from his house, and it just sat in a box for a while.
My great-grandfather’s name was Henry Burrows Wray, and he came to Canada in 1901. I did a bit of genealogy when I was younger, and I know that his father was a drunk who had 12 kids, and his mother was a saint and one of the founders of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in London, England. She believed.
So I took a closer look at this Bible. Here’s the cover page, along with a picture of Henry, showing that his mother Martha gave it to him in 1901–probably his going away gift when he left England. It would be the last time he would ever see her:
Then I started to flip through. And I saw that on page after page, verses were underlined and starred.
And it’s falling apart, which means it’s well used. It’s a neat Bible, too, because the last 1/3 of the pages are all study notes and maps and stuff. So for it’s time, it was like the NIV Study Bible or something!
Anyway, I’ve never realized that there was a strong faith on my father’s side, too. My great-grandfather experienced his own griefs in life. His wife died when their two children were very young, and he had to remarry. But I think his first wife was the love of his life. All the verses about suffering in the Bible are underlined and starred.
It makes me think that perhaps he did what I’m doing: he prayed that his descendants would know and love God.
And my father turned away, but I turned back. And so when I’m in heaven, I won’t just see my mother’s family; I’ll see my father’s, too.
And it’s such a treat to learn this on what would have been my grandfather’s hundredth birthday.