Something happens on one’s inside when the season of grandparenting arrives. (Something happens on one’s outside too, but that’s a subject for another column.)
In the classic children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, a stuffed toy rabbit, who had observed real live rabbits playing in the garden, asks a well-beloved and much-used rocking horse in the nursery what it means to be real.
The old horse answers, “’Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby….”
After many romps and tussles like I experienced last weekend, I feel fairly real. That’s what comes of voluntarily laying on a sofa, under a pile of four squirming, squealing grandbeans, determined to make you into a hot dog and eat you up.
A half hour later, I rose thoroughly messed up, hair amuck, one pant leg up to my knees, my shirt twisted in places I didn’t know shirts could go, and a few tender spots from elbows poking into places I didn’t know I had places. Yep. Really real.
““Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'”
By that definition alone, with six young grandbeans nearby, I am indeed real, and blessed to be. But though parts of me may be weakening, this season of life has brought real strengthening in another direction. From deep inside my spirit, in the unseen reservoir of faith, springs a longing to connect in richer ways to the God who made us all and to Jesus Christ who died for all.
But the longing doesn’t stop there. I long also to pass my faith on to those squirming squealers. I am free to reveal to my grandchildren (more often than I did to my children) that I don’t have all the answers. That I’ve been often broken, but that Christ has healed me in ways and places I’ve never had the courage to voice.
The Bible refers often to the role of believing grandparents. Among a good many other things, we are called to be blessing givers, people who pray for and with our grandchildren; who encourage and cheer their gifts and development; who remind them often that they are unique and special in God’s eyes. We are also called to bear a torch of truth, to pass on a legacy of faith and to set a standard of moral living in an immoral world. To live generously and rightly, so that one day, when our grandchildren look back…“The memory of the righteous will be a blessing…” Prov. 10:7”
A REAL blessing.