For many, 2020 is an unforgettable year. It’ll be interesting to hear how future generations will talk about 2020. Of course, a lot of attention will go to the global pandemic and its impact on the world. It has touched every aspect of life: economics, relationships, public health, etc. For Americans, 2020 will also be remembered as a year of a contentious presidential election—many claiming it to be the most important election of our lives.
It’s easy to pick out the world-wide issues that we’ll mull over for years. But I think we have to remember that our personal problems, sufferings, and trials have not disappeared in the midst of these world-wide issues. We, referring to Christians, continue to battle sin and face personal struggles that sanctify us.
This reality of our personal trials is what will make 2020 memorable for me. On September 20, 2020, I lost my 98 year old (paternal) grandmother. She was a great woman of faith that lived a long life. Still, despite her long life it really stung my soul to lose such a solid figure of my life. She had seen and experienced so much in this life from 1922–2020. Losing my paternal grandmother in September only reminded me of my maternal grandmother. She passed away in November 2018 at the age of 93. She too was a woman of faith that played a major role in raising me.
Losing these two women so close to the same time of year (Sept/Nov) really led me to reflect on their lives. They were part of a unique generation that was so strong, so experienced, so down to earth. They had lived through so many world events. They were also resilient women who migrated from the Philippines to the United States with limited resources and education. Still, they found a way to love and support those around them.
As I seek to honor my ancestors, I thought it would be helpful to reflect on their life and legacy. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from reflecting on their life of faith:
#1: You Don’t Need an Education to Make a Difference. Both my grandmothers did not finish elementary school. To be clear, the reason they did not finish elementary school was not because they lacked the intellectual ability, but because they lacked the opportunity. Both my grandmothers were extremely intelligent women, they simply lacked the opportunity to pursue education in their 3rd-world context of the Philippines. At my paternal grandmother’s funeral stories of her reciting huge chunks of Scripture from memory is a testimony to her intellectual ability.
These women, despite their lack of education, went on to impact the lives of dozens or hundreds of people. I don’t think that number is an understatement. My paternal grandmother had 9 children, all of whom married and had their own children and grandchildren. My maternal grandmother had 5 children of her own, most of whom married and had children and grandchildren.
As I reflect on their life, I think this is an amazingly backwards perspective from the world. The world may tell us that knowledge is power. The movers and shakers of the world are college educated, robed with the accolades of academia. But when I reflect on my grandmothers, I can’t help but realize how much of a difference they made without the recognition of worldly prestige.
#2: (Grand)Motherhood is Severely Under-Appreciated. Both my grandmothers did not establish themselves in the corporate world. They were homemakers—raising children and grandchildren, cooking meals, keeping house, and loving their family. Most, if not all, of their adult lives were spent loving and caring for their families. Again, perhaps the world might look down on this life, but so many of us are extremely grateful for their hard-work and love.
#3: Simple Obedience, Over Time, Accomplishes Much. Those women practiced everyday acts of obedience. They read, sang, prayed, and loved those around them. Their serious labor of love could easily be overlooked. But I sit back and look at the fruit of their labors and I’m floored. Their children and grandchildren are all grown up and making their own impact in society and in the kingdom of God. Many people in the world want to be part of changing the world, but struggle with loving their neighbor. Both my grandmothers were excellent examples of how loving those immediately around you is the best way to impact the world.
#4: Laughing is a Necessary Part of Life. Both my grandmothers had a great sense of humor, but this was especially seen in my paternal grandmother. Hearing her laugh was a relief in today’s tense world. Today, every opinion is offensive. Every conviction is a hill to die on. It was nice to see my grandmother live through so much yet still have a joyful disposition towards life. I admire her ability to laugh in ways that were not disrespectful, crude, or done in mockery. Rather, I believe her laughter reflected her ability to know that God would work things out in its proper time and we could have joy and laughter along the way. As an adult, it is so easy to worry and have anxiety over social issues, politics, and pandemics, but her laughter gave me a sense of calm that things would be ok. It was almost as if she was saying, “the world has seen stuff like this before, you can’t control it, just enjoy the ride.”
#5: Suffering Is Unavoidable. My maternal grandmother suffered great loss and pain in her life. She lost her first-born son (David) at a young age. Her husband died of a heart-attack, leaving her a widow with five children. At the end of her life, she suffered dementia and had cancer. Still, I can remember days where she would ask me to read her Tagalog Bible to her until she was fall asleep for her afternoon nap. I am grateful for the memory of reading Scripture to her, even if I couldn’t even understand what I was reading! Still, her life is a reminder that sufferings are part of living in a fallen world and that shouldn’t stop us from running to Christ and loving Him.
#6: True Love Lasts. Both my grandmothers loved their husbands. My paternal grandmother was married for 50+ years! My maternal grandmother never remarried after losing her husband. I can’t imagine the immense love that these women had for their husbands throughout the years. Both my grandmothers had pictures of their husbands beside them when they passed. I was encouraged to see them carry that love to their last breath.
#7: The Gospel Always Wins. Both my grandmothers professed faith in Christ. Honestly, I can’t tell you much about their theological convictions, but I did see and experience what I would consider the fruit of the Spirit. I think the positive qualities of their life are a result or fruit of their genuine faith. It is a reminder to me that God saves and sanctifies. Their life is a testimony to the effectiveness of the gospel, despite being a 2000 year old message. God saved, saves, and will save sinners.
I love both my grandmothers and will miss them dearly. Still, while I grieve and reminisce of them, I want to grieve with the hope of Christ. I want to honor them by living my own life of faith for the glory of God, just like they did.
Soli Deo Gloria