Not Many Fathers

For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 1 Cor. 4:15 NKJV

john ahrens 1936
Grandpa (age 22) on the far left

Despite that my grandfather never finished the eighth grade, he was a great teacher. He was patient and loving. If you wanted to know anything about bicycles Grandpa was the guy to go to. He loved everything about bikes. He rode bikes. He fixed everybody’s bikes. He read about bikes. He built bikes from old parts. Everyone of us, at one time or another had a bike that grandpa built. It was great. He taught all my sons not only to ride bikes but how to fix and build them.

Grandpa also loved to roller skate. He was the one who took each one of us to the roller rink. He would take us by the hand and slowly walk us around the lobby while we got used to having the skates on. Then when he deemed us ready he would take us out on the slippery floor. He made sure we didn’t fall. When we gained enough confidence he would let us fall. it was all a part of learning. Whenever we thought we were ready he would let us take a turn around the rink on our own. He was always nearby in case of emergency. When we were fairly proficient he taught us how to waltz.

Did I mention that Grandpa loved to dance? So, on skates or off Grandpa taught us how to dance. He taught us how to play softball and how to swim. If you haven’t caught on yet, Grandpa taught us the things Grandpa loved to do. Mom thought he was just looking for playmates. In a way he was. But Grandpa’s passion was to share with others the things he loved. Grandpa loved God. Grandpa taught me what he knew about God.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Grandpa had a father’s heart. My biological father did  not. There was a vast difference between these two men. My father is one of those people who got taken sideways at an early age and never recovered. He is a pretty self absorbed individual who doesn’t have room for other people unless they can somehow service him. Family doesn’t rank among my father’s priorities. He didn’t have much use for family since they didn’t earn him money or any other benefit.

Grandpa on the other hand loved family. He always had time for family. He looked for opportunities to spend with family. It didn’t matter how good you were at something or how much money you made. Grandpa didn’t care if we were athletically inclined or physically challenged. He didn’t care if had to pick up the tab or drive an hour out of his way to come and get you. He just liked being with family. Grandpa loved having his family close by. It was hard on him when any member of the family was away. He loved everyone so much he wanted them close by.

Grandpa loved God. Grandpa took Deuteronomy 6 quite literally. Every single day without fail we heard Grandpa’s motto. He had studied out the scriptures and boiled it all down the essence to Jesus’ statement in Matthew.

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Grandpa and I had lengthy conversations about these two commandments. He talked about what it meant to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. These were more than scriptural concepts to him. They were the principles he chose to guide his life. Being a simple and practical man Grandpa boiled down the love your neighbor thing to acts of service, giving of gifts and spending quality time with others. It was Grandpa who  continually reminded me that honoring my father regardless was right up there with loving your neighbor. He would tenderly point out that I didn’t have to agree with my father but that one aspect of of loving God is loving the people God created.  “You never know if the love and respect you show him might not be the thing that turns his heart to God.” 

I miss having conversations with Grandpa. When you had a conversation with him he listened. He paid attention to your words. He responded to what you were saying not to what he had on his mind. He was my living example of empathic listening. He often said, “Seek to understand rather than to be understood.” 

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Grandpa did random acts of kindness. He greeted people with a smile. He encouraged others and acknowledged their input and efforts. He always said thank you. Grandpa engaged with the people around him. He didn’t necessarily get involved in other people’s drama but he did make himself available in times of need. He helped people move. He taxied people who didn’t own a car. He didn’t go out looking for strangers to help. He simply engaged with the people who were already in his life. And grandpa found plenty of opportunities to be of assistance. In Grandpa’ mind helping someone else was one way he showed his love for God. At the end of the day Grandpa was someone who could be counted on. He didn’t have endless resources. He wasn’t a wealthy man. But he was generous with what he had. He had time. He had strength. He had a heart. What he had he shared.

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Grandpa had a way of  gently reminding me when I was drifting away from love. When he witnessed an attitude or behavior that was not loving he would softly say, “Betty, love your neighbor.” Grandpa didn’t do harsh rebukes. He gave gentle and repetitive reminders. Those verses in Matthew are embedded in my mind. They are engraved on my soul. I cannot think about Grandpa without thinking about God. And I can’t think about love without Grandpa coming to mind.

1 Cor. 4:17 NIV For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

Grandpa was to me what the apostle Paul was to Timothy, a father. Paul sent Timothy to the Corinthians, the ones to whom he said, you have ten thousand instructors but not many fathers. Timothy knew Paul’s way of life much in the same way I knew Grandpa’s way of life. Timothy could remind the Corinthians about Paul’s gospel because Timothy had that example lived out in practical ways through Paul every single day. It would have been embedded in Timothy the same way Grandpa’s gospel of love is embedded in me. Paul was a father to Timothy. Paul saw the believers in Corinth as his children. This is why Paul says to the Corinthians to imitate him. (v.16) It isn’t because he thinks of himself as better than Christ. It is because he is a father trying to teach his children what he knows about God. Paul wanted to come the Corinthians in love with a gentle spirit. He didn’t want to have to come with a rod of discipline. (v21)

Image result for do unto othersGrandpa didn’t like to discipline the children. He had a gentle spirit. He preferred to have fun. He didn’t like having to enforce the rules. For Grandpa the rules were simple, love God, love your neighbor and be nice. Treat other people the way you would want them to treat you. (Lk 6:31)

My foundation is built on what I first learned from Grandpa which is a gospel of love. He preached love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. He taught me through his words and his example that God loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus. (John 3:16)

Image result for help someone upOften, but not often enough, Grandpa’s words bubble up from my memory. He’s been gone since 2011. A big chunk of my heart went with him and I will only get it back when we are reunited in heaven. In the meantime the hole only reminds me of something Grandpa said, “Betty, most people live in silent desperation. You have no idea the pain, the emptiness and the sorrow that people are experiencing. We have the God of all comfort. Christ comforts us so that we can comfort others.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NASB – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

Grandpa didn’t know how much he would be missed. He gave so much of himself. He was such a huge part of my life that it is hard not to miss him. On days like today, when there’s an ache in my heart and I just want to talk to Grandpa, I grab a cup of coffee and sit with Jesus. I lean on his shoulder and I cry. And you know what? He comforts me. He comforts the places that hurt. He soothes my soul. He listens even better than Grandpa. His love goes deeper. Grandpa didn’t always relate with my frustrations or my fear but Jesus does. He knows the way I take.

2 Corinthians 7:5-6 NLT – “When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us…”

2 Timothy 1:12b BSB – “…for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.

I have not entrusted my life to the memory of my Grandfather. I entrust my life to the only one capable of guarding me with His love and caring for me with an everlasting love, Christ Jesus.

Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT – So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Our_Father_PrayerGod loves us as a Father, a true father, loves His children.

1 John 3:1 NIV  See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

John 3:16 BSB For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:10 BSB And love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

May, our heavenly Father, the God of all comfort heal your hurts, bind up your wounds, and pour out His loving compassion upon you without measure. May you know the peace and love of God that passes understanding.