Last week, I found this little treasure in my Bible. I don’t remember the sermon — obviously it was something about being salt, light, sheep, and branches, God’s voice and Psalm 81:10. I’m sure whoever the preacher was made all that fit together beautifully.
I don’t remember any words, though. I don’t even remember who was preaching. I just remember looking down at my little Daniel taking these notes. No one told him to do it. I didn’t hand him a pen and paper and say, “Here boy, now listen to the preacher and write down what he says.” No, he did it on his own. I doubt he even knew what “providence” meant. All he knew was his Mama was taking notes, so he wanted to do it too.
I kept this in my Bible to remind me there are little eyes watching. Children (and humans in general) have always been better at imitating what they see more than what they hear.
It was a vivid example to me that I carry a huge responsibility, a heavy burden. The next generation was watching me, and in my heart I prayed, “Lord help me to always give him something worth following.”
I made a decision when my children were born not to be one of those “Do as I say, not as I do” parents. If I didn’t want them to do it, I tried not to do it either.
Although they’re all adults now, they don’t stop watching us just because they’re grown. The weight of responsibility is still on our shoulders to give our children an example of how to live, how to treat people, how to conduct themselves, how to be productive citizens, even though they’re living on their own.
The other day I heard my mother in law, Sue, say, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” Even though I didn’t tell her, I thought about how she probably doesn’t realize it, but she’s a living sermon to me every day.
Sue Hall is one amazing lady. I watch how she treats her husband, her grown children, her grandchildren, her extended family, friends and neighbors. I love how kind and generous she is. I love how she helps my father in law work in the yard and shows him such respect. He loves the ground she walks on, and she deserves it.
I love how she cooks for us, how she’s always thinking of us, how she buys us little gifts, sends people notes, makes meals for the sick, visits folks in the nursing home every single week, and how she’s never met a stranger. I love that her door is always open, and she’s always happy to see us come in. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for us if we needed it.
She loves to travel. Last summer when she and Mike went with us to Alaska to visit my daughter, Lindsey and son in law, Dan, we were running to keep up with her. No peak was too high, no hike too steep, no food too different for her to try.
She isn’t afraid of the latest technology. If there’s a new iPhone, she’s getting it. Whatever the latest fashion, the latest trend, the latest gadget, Sue’s on it.
No getting old for Sue Hall. She’s 75 going on 30.
And I want to be just like her. She might think she’s done raising children. She’s not. She’s the sermon I’m seeing instead of hearing.
I want our children and grandchildren to love coming to our house. I want them to smell something good cooking when they walk in, and always have a jug of tea in the fridge. Just like Sue.
Sue lives like the Apostle Paul instructed us in 1 Corinthians 11:1,
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
At first glance, his directive might seem a little haughty. It’s pretty bold to tell people to follow your example. Scary, actually. But Paul makes a clarification. He’s not just making stuff up that he wants us to do. He’s following Jesus, and he’s giving a living example of how to do that — a sermon you can see and not just hear.
With my dying breath, I want to set a good example. Our children, even at ages 27, 25, 23, 21 and 19, are still watching, and now we have a precious granddaughter on the way. More than I can express to you, I want that sweet little thing to want to come to Mimi and Pop’s house. When she’s grown up, I hope she’ll say she wants to be the things she saw in me. May I never give her reason not to!
I kept kept Daniel’s sermon notes not only as a reminder that he was watching me, but also as a priceless keepsake of his innocence. I knew one day, all too soon, he would be out on his own, living his life, and I wanted to remember his childlike faith in a God who was the voice of peace and promise. When I see this, it comforts me to know the God of all providence is still watching over my little boy when I can’t anymore.
A prayer is on my heart. Won’t you pray it with me? There is power in agreement.
Precious Lord Jesus, enable us to live like You. To love like You. To be the voice of kindness, gentleness, goodness, love, joy and peace in a world full of anger, hatred, confusion and strife.
May this generation, and the ones to come, follow us as we follow You. May they love others because they saw us love people. May all those who cross our paths be glad they did.
Keep a watch over our children. Guide and protect them, and hold them close to Your heart, as You hold us.
Where we have messed up, where in our humanness and flawed actions we have failed, forgive us and cover our mistakes. Let those who follow us see the intent of our hearts instead of our faults.
May we be a sermon for the world to see You, and may they find hope that You are always at work for our good, for our success. If You are for us, who can be against us?
May all who come behind us find us faithful.
For Your glory, amen and may it be so.