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I Never Liked My Grandpa

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After I finished reading this one, I knew I had to pass it on. Some times we never know if the love we show to others is really getting through or not. But God’s love always does.

It is easy to love those who love you back, but the true test of love is to love those that hate you or you do not like.

Campus Life, March/April 2002

I Never Liked My Grandpa

by Steven James

He never seemed to care about me. But for some reason, I had to see him one more time.

He sat slouched and alone next to his ashtray in the smoke-filled living room. The television droned on, flickering in the gloom. The shades were drawn. Only thin slivers of light pierced in from the outside world. And every once in a while, he would say the kids oughta shut up and go somewhere else to play.

Not exactly your ideal grandfather.

My parents told us about Grandpa’s hunting and fishing days. I saw photos of the deer, the mounted bass on the wall, even the bear rug upstairs, and I wished he’d take me out fishing or teach me to hunt. But he rarely left the couch. So my brother, my sister, and I pretty much stayed clear of the living room and explored the rest of the old house.

Back in those days, I noticed that Grandpa stayed behind when we went to church. When he said Jesus’ name, he wasn’t praying. And he told dirty jokes. And nobody ever told him it was wrong.

Since they didn’t, I decided I would.

My teacher at my Christian school helped me write the note. I wrote that God didn’t like it when he said those things, but that God loved him, and so did Jesus and so did I. And I wanted him to go to heaven, but he needed to believe in Jesus first.

I slipped the note under Grandpa’s pillow as we were leaving one day. Yeah, I was pretty naive, but I didn’t know what else to do. Because deep down, I cared about him.

A few days later Grandma called. She said Grandpa had found my note. My excitement didn’t last very long, though. Grandma said the note had made him worse. She said, “I’ll have to start over trying to get him to go to church.”

Why would my note make him worse? I’d thought I was doing the right thing, but now I felt rotten. For a long time I didn’t want to tell people about Jesus for fear of “making things worse.”

Whenever we’d visit after that, I’d give Grandpa this awkward sideways hug and ask him what he was watching. He’d grumble something about a fishing show, and that was it. We didn’t even make eye contact. I never knew what more to say. I wished there was something, anything to talk about.

So we grew further and further apart. But I kept thinking of him. And I prayed for him. Despite everything, I still cared about him.

Slipping away

About that time, Grandpa realized he was dying of cancer.

He kept getting weaker and weaker. No more smoking. No more leaving the house. Grandma spent all her time taking care of him, shuffling him from the bed to the couch to the bathroom. She read devotions to him. A local pastor started to visit him.

I don’t really know what was going through Grandpa’s head. Maybe Grandma’s devotions were making a difference. Maybe we just liked to think that they were.

And then one day Grandma told us that Grandpa believed in Jesus. “We pray together,” she said. “He listens to devotions and takes the Lord’s Supper.”

Months slipped away. I didn’t visit Grandpa much anymore because I was so busy with school. Grandma took care of him as long as she could, but finally he had to go to a nursing home.

I couldn’t remember ever looking him in the eye and telling him I loved him. But I wanted to.

It really hurt Grandma to see him suffer. But she was glad that as the cancer grew, so did Grandpa’s interest in God. So I decided to visit him again. I’m still not sure why it was so important for me to go. I couldn’t remember anything kind he’d ever done or said to me. But he was my grandpa, you know? Maybe I just needed to see him again before he died. Maybe I wanted to know that my note years before hadn’t made him worse.

I never liked my Grandpa, and I never would. Yet for as long as I could remember, I had struggled to love him. And somehow I had to tell him.

Tough love

“You still work at that Bible camp?” he grunted without looking at me from his wheelchair.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Do you fish?”

“No, not too much.”

A long, uncomfortable pause.

“Still driving that car? That-”

“Honda? Yeah.”

Back and forth we talked until all of a sudden it was time to go and nothing had been said.

I stood up awkwardly. Someone came over to wheel him away for supper.

But before they could, I blurted out, “Before I go, could we pray?” Without really waiting for an answer, I shut my eyes and started to pray aloud, right there in the lobby of the nursing home. It wasn’t pretty. But I meant it. It was my first and only prayer with my grandfather.

Then I said “amen” and I looked up.

He was crying. I took his hand and told him I loved him. Then I watched as they wheeled him slowly down the hall.

I don’t know if he even remembered the note I wrote. But I don’t feel guilty about writing it anymore. Telling people about God’s love never makes them worse. Sometimes it makes them uneasy, sometimes it shakes them up, sometimes it even makes them angry. But sometimes, it might just put them on the road to getting better.

Grandpa died soon afterward. Pretty peacefully, I guess. Grandma had been sitting with him. She stepped into the other room, he closed his eyes and slipped into a coma. Forty-five minutes later his journey was over.

When God tells us to love people, I’m glad he didn’t say we had to like them. It’s just way too hard to like some people. But to love them? Yeah, it’s tough, but with God’s help, I can do it. I know that, because I’ve done it.

Love the Unlovable?

We’ve all got people in our lives that we just don’t like very much.

Maybe for you, like Steven, it’s a grandparent or another family member who just isn’t very much fun to be around. Or maybe it’s that guy in homeroom who drives you crazy with his need to be right – all the time.

As Christians, we’re not only called to love those we like, but even those we don’t like (Luke 6:35; Romans 12:9-17). When we show love to a person who doesn’t show love back, it hurts. But people who shy away from being loved are often the ones who need it the most. Maybe they never learned how to show love. Maybe they can’t understand why we would love them despite how they’ve treated us. It seems there’s a tough shell that has formed around their hearts that doesn’t allow love to come in or out. But don’t underestimate God’s power to break through that shell, just like he did with Steven’s grandfather.

God gives us numerous insights in his Word about love and our responsibility to love others. Here are a few:

Love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-44).
Love others as you love yourself (Mark 12:31).
Love with your life (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Love with patience, kindness and more (1 Corinthians 13:3-8).
Love like Christ loved (Philippians 2:2).
Love others because God first loved us (1 John 4:11-12).

In learning to love people we don’t like, we should keep in mind that we don’t even deserve God’s love – but he loves us anyway. God loves the unloveable, and we should try to imitate that.

Here are some practical ways to do that:

Think before you speak. It’s a lot easier to lash out at someone who offends or irritates you than to give them a word of encouragement…or not say anything at all.

Put yourself in their shoes. Try to look at life from their perspective. Maybe they come from a difficult home life, or maybe they’re trying to overcome some major hurdles. Empathize with that person, and try to understand what he or she might be going through.

Don’t give up. Steven kept pursuing his grandpa’s love, even by sending him a note. His honesty might have made his grandpa uncomfortable, but that didn’t stop him from sharing about God’s love. His persistence eventually led to a breakthrough where his grandpa showed signs of love through the tears in his eyes.

Pray for that person. Pray that God will change their heart and yours as well, as he helps you see them through his eyes. Remember to always (P.U.S.H.) Pray Until Something Happens.

By: Steven James
Submitted by Richard

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