I was sitting in my office this afternoon when I received an email from my cousin, along with a picture of our paternal grandparents, Lettie and Jake Toussaint, on their wedding day, August 14, 1912. That’s right – 100 years ago Tuesday. Grandma was 17 and Grandpa was several years older. My Grandpa Toussaint, as I used to call him, passed away on Jan. 13, 1966, when I was approaching my 13th birthday, but Grandma lived many years longer, finally passing away in the late 1980’s.
During most of our childhood, they lived in Park Ridge, IL and Grandpa was kind of quiet compared to my grandmother. Quite honestly, my cousins knew them far better than I did. After all, they lived minutes away while our family lived way on the south side of Chicago, almost an hour away. In the early years, I never really enjoyed visiting them very much. They seemed old and out of touch, but the older I get, the more I think that most grandparents seemed like that to me. Except Janet’s grandparents. I knew them also and they seemed a lot more “hip” than mine did. I was privileged to know them throughout many years of my life as well – in fact, they were the ones who taught Janet and me to play bridge and I recall many great times with them.
Anyway, Grandpa loved his garden. They lived on a street named Burton Lane in Park Ridge and had the only house in the neighborhood with a double lot. I was told that was because Grandpa really wanted his huge garden and almost every time I was there in nice weather, he would be out in the back tending to his vegetables and other plants. During harvest season, Grandma would be putting up all kinds of berries and pickles, along with every imaginable thing that could be preserved. Every meal, we had fresh peas or beans or other fresh produce from Grandpa’s rows of plants. I could go on and on about those early years, but the thing that stands out more than anything is how religious Grandma was.
I always got the idea that Grandpa could take it or leave it, but to Grandma, the Bible was a way of life. I remember she once told me that she couldn’t even begin to guess how many times she had read the Bible cover to cover. Every meal was accompanied by the saying of grace and she would read to us each night before we went to bed when we stayed overnight there. I even remember how she would put her elbows on the table as she bowed her head and then hold her hands folded together, always pressed against her cheek.
My brother Doug and I would sometimes laugh at the seriousness of the meal ritual and frankly, we never said grace at home, but we never missed it when Grandma was around. My father, while having accepted Christ at a relatively early age, renounced religion years later. He attributed it to the fact that my grandmother forced him to live such an oppressed life that she drove him away from God. I don’t know for sure if that is true or not – and I certainly don’t know if Dad believed in God when he died back in 1978 at the age of 55. That’s one of the biggest questions I have had in my entire life.
Back then, I don’t think I understood the importance of leading a God centered life. I thought Grandma was a little over the top with grace at every meal and her constant insistance on living a life fully dedicated to God. I even remember wondering whether my grandfather was jealous of God and the close relationship my grandmother had with Him.
Both of my grandparents died before I really “found” religion. Now, the older I get, the more I realize that my faith in God seems to be similar to the feelings my grandmother had – those same feelings that used to turn me off. And she was a hard core Fundamental Baptist – I went to all Baptist seminaries. Sometimes, I even think about what it would have been like to engage her in theological conversations – of course, none of those ever happened. But it would have been great fun, and educational, to get her take on many of the doctrines that I have spent years studying. She was really knowledgable and the older I get the more I realize how committed she was to her faith and her God – the same God I worship. It’s odd how some of these things turn out, isn’t it?
I even wonder, based on the number of people in the family who have been pastors and ministers, whether or not God had some supreme plan in mind for me to enter ministry work. Believe me, though, when I say that if you had known me as a young child, that idea would never have even crossed your mind – or mine…
There is only one reference in the Bible of a grandmother who imparted faith to her grandson. It occurs when Paul, who wrote many of the epistles in the New Testament, wrote a letter to his young protege, Timothy. In the opening verses of his second letter to his young pastor friend, Paul gives thanks and then starts with opening verses remembering the family of Timothy. We are told in 2 Tim. 1:5, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
Apparently, Paul knew Timothy’s family and believed, at least to some extent, the faith of Timothy was perhaps sparked by his grandmother. I wonder if that happened to me as well. My encouragement this evening is to let you know that you may spark a life of faith in younger members of your own family. Any my prayer is that you will follow God all the days of your life and that your family may have fond memories of your dedication to God for many years to come. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…