I caught a glimpse of the scope of an answered prayer the other day,and it shook me to my core. I happened to be driving down the 101 freeway, somewhere south of Salinas, Greenfield maybe, coming home from my gramma's funeral. Alone in my car, I realized that my great grandparent's prayers had been answered, 5 generations later. My mind grasped it for just a moment, and it cracked open my heart so wide, and then the tears came from so way down deep, I had to pull the car over.
My great grandparents, Art & Ruth, loved Jesus. They had children, some of whom continued in their faith, and some of whom did not. My branch of the family tree did not. Instead, we developed a snarky cynicism. We got pretty good at it, too, and making fun of Christians became a favorite past time with nasty remarks, rude jokes & loud broadcasts of silly sounding evangelists on Sunday morning for the Jeep Club camping set. The message was clear: Christianity was a joke.
I intentionally avoided becoming a Christian, as my dad had before me, and his dad before him. My kids were not given the benefit of growing up in an established faith. "they can choose for themselves when they're older" was my approach.
We were ripped off.
One of the saddest moments of my Life was when my dad was trying to get sober through AA, and said to me, "Jeni, I don't think this AA thing is going to work for me... I don't have a God." I just stood there not knowing what to say. He was dead in less than a year.
Operating under our own power only works for so long. Eventually, we all need something bigger to believe in, to accomplish the things we cannot accomplish on our own. But we have this free will thing going for us, and so sometimes we accept beliefs that are not really our own, just because our parents did before us.
A few years ago, I hit rock bottom and surrendered my will and my Life over to God- a sort of spiritual "uncle"... I gave up and asked for help. I didn't understand God's nature at all, and didn't think He was particularly interested in helping me out. I was the bad kid, the bad wife, the bad mom: a real wreck of a human being. The real truth is, I didn't think He would take me back.
So my journey began, and He's been rebuilding me from the inside out, but that Story is for another time.
What I'm trying to get at here, is that I know my great-grandparents Art & Ruth prayed for me- prayed for all their children, grand children and on down into future generations. I think they prayed especially hard for those of us in the branch of the family tree that had fallen off- that would have to be grafted back in later on. I know they did. As a mom, I pray for my children and unborn grandchildren and future generations with an inherent passion that I know reaches the Heavens. It's almost involuntary and automatic. So my great grandparents prayers for my kids and I were heard, and eventually they were played out in the most amazing, beautiful way.
Here's the best part:
My aunt Dorothy (Art & Ruth's daughter) chatted with me at my gramma's funeral and asked where we were living now. Orange County, I said. And her face lit up and she said, "oh our son Rick is the Chaplain at the Juvenile Hall there! We are so proud of him. He just loves those kids- many of them really turn their lives around and some even become pastors"!
It was not until the next day, driving down the 101, that I began to realize my son was in and out of that juvenile hall, and had accepted Christ and done the majority of his Bible study while he was there. It has changed his Life- he is a walking miracle, evidence of God's power to transform.
Was it possible that Rick had ministered to him? What if they had talked and the seeds of faith were planted in Jeremy by a blood relative? This could not be a coincidence! I suddenly knew that God had orchestrated the timing and placement of Rick & Jeremy to connect, in of all places, juvenile hall, and had worked His way into our lives through my great grandparents original prayers. How amazing that He would do this for our family! How amazing that it would be revealed through a casual conversation years later! Once again, the magnitude of God's creativity and persistent Love overwhelmed me, which is when I had to pull the car over.
A few days later I confirmed all this with my son- I cried and went on about the gravity of this miracle. He said calmly, "God, does this stuff all the time, Mom."
The intimacy with which God pursues and reveals Himself to us over the course of our Lifetime is nothing short of miraculous. I've found His approach, especially who and how He works through, always surprising and unexpected, and usually ironic and funny. I love that He can do whatever, whenever and however He wants, but it seems that usually He just hangs back and works quietly in the background until it's time for the Big Reveal.
And so today I called my Aunt Dorothy to share the story of what God had done, through her parent's prayers and her mothering of a son that God worked through to reach my son. She was amazed and commented how good God is, how He had his hand on our family all the time- everything that we'd been through, we were under His protection all along. We clucked and cooed about how amazing it all was, what a good story for us share. And I hung up the phone feeling satisfied that I was finally at a place in my Life that I could tell the truth about all of it.
And again I caught a glimpse of the bigger picture- the one that stretches out 5 generations and even into eternity. It's so full of loveliness and kindness and grace... my little speck of a heart and mind can hardly contain it.