Vacation requests were approved and tickets bought. Beds were ready and the refrigerator was stocked. Finally, the day came! Our three grandchildren were on their way for their annual visit. Fully prepared, Ron and I got to the airport extra early. We got our passes, went through security and found our way to the gate. While other flights came and went, we grabbed a Starbucks and waited. Close to arrival time, we headed back to the gate. What a shock! Our grandkids were waiting for us, wondering if we had forgotten them. Clearly, this was not a strong start. Hugs broke the tension and fears turned to laughter.
Once home, we asked a risky question, “If you could do anything in San Antonio, what would it be?” Then we took an even greater risk and asked, “What part of the Bible do you want to read while you are here?” Without any pause, Annalyse, our 10-year-old, said, “Esther.” The VeggieTales version had stirred her imagination. She wanted to learn more about this “beauty queen.” We all agreed, and every night that week, we enjoyed time with Esther and God.
Our position as the “grands” of our family gives us purpose and delight. With life’s long-range view, we see four ways childhood is a unique time to invest in the lives of our grandchildren:
1. Childhood is a great time to impress kids with the gospel.
Kids are easily impressed. They admire people who are beautiful, intelligent and have accomplished great things. Leave children to understand life from various teachers, video games, friends, movies, social media, and they will veer off into a worldview that is at odds with the Bible’s. Kids are impressionable because God made them this way. Childhood is the time God has designed to capture their imaginations with the wonder of the gospel.
2. Childhood is the time to instill good spiritual habits.
Kids can’t live on candy bars! Childhood is the key time to build strong bodies and minds. Poor nutrition stunts kids’ growth and leaves them open to disease. We feed them balanced meals, give them vitamins and make sure they get enough sleep. Childhood is also the time to build spiritually healthy kids. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
3. Childhood is a great time to bend a kid’s heart toward God.
Children’s bodies are flexible and so are their minds. The world is waiting to squeeze a child into its mold. Smartphones give kids full access to the world – good, bad and indifferent. Their opinion on everything from the latest styles to sexual identity is influenced by whatever website they’re on.
God made your child’s mind and heart pliable for a reason. Children are not yet skeptical, judgmental or cynical. They are ready to listen and believe what you tell them about God. Even at a young age, children can grasp something of the beauty of God’s character.
4. Childhood is a time to prepare a young heart to follow Jesus.
Our spiritual enemy tempts us to think: “We don’t know enough to teach and train our kids to follow Jesus.” “The church will take care of this.” But God values children and he “gifts” them to us. Psalm 127:3 tells us, “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” Children do not really belong to us – they belong to God. He places children in our family, church and neighborhood. We introduce them to God and show them with our words and lives what it means to follow Jesus.
With these truths in view, we set out to teach our grandchildren the gospel with our lives and words. We prayed that God would use both our daily activities and Bible reading for our grandkids to know him better. By day we tubed down the Guadalupe River, hiked up Enchanted Rock and talked about God’s glory in creation. At night we rearranged activities to make Esther a priority. We simply read, and God brought the story to life. We giggled and marveled and shouted, “Yeah, God!” when the tables turned on Haman. Reading God’s Word was fun.
Ron and I love our role as the “grands” of our family. With the time we have left we plan to reach the next generation in our family. God has made it our purpose and delight to take full advantage of the uniquely designed time of childhood. With the Lord’s help, we will use our words and lives to tell our grandchildren of His praiseworthy deeds, so they will put their trust in Him (Psalm 78:5-7).