Today, September 20, 2021, I achieved my three-score and ten years on this planet. Reaching this milestone and transitioning to a new decade of life is an occasion for reflection. I am reflecting on significant lessons learned during the formative years of my childhood. At times awareness of lessons imparted during my youth went unnoticed in the moment. Later in life, during those “aha” moments, I came to a new understanding of those powerful lessons. In these “aha” moments, memories escape the entrapment of the brain and impact the hear
During this pandemic season, I have busied myself sorting and digitizing family photos. I have inherited photo collections from my maternal grandparents as well as my parents. I am experiencing some “aha” moments along the way.
Recently, one of those “aha” moments occurred while scanning pictures which included my fraternal grandmother. Her name is Elizabeth. Elizabeth was affectionally called “Bessie” by her family members and close friends. (I remember grandma had a sister my dad would refer to affectionally as “Aunt Gabby.” Knowing my dad’s humor, that was most likely not her real name.) Elizabeth’s maiden name is Struthers, daughter of Andrew Wilson Struthers and Elizabeth (Dale) Struthers. I discovered that my great-grandfather Andrew, my father Gordon, and I share the same middle name.
Elizabeth married Leo McCreith. Leo and Bessie had two children, Jean and Gordon. When my father Gordon was about four years old, his father Leo walked out on the family, never returning. His departure left grandma Bessie in dire straits. Not only was the family breadwinner absent, he jumped shipped during the early stages of the 1930 depression.
Grandma placed Jean and Gordon in an orphanage and struggled to get on her feet. She never remarried. Soon, she could retrieve Jean from the orphanage but opted to leave her son Gordon in the orphanage. Gordon lived in the orphanage from about age 4 to 14. My father only shared few positive memories from his life in the orphanage. The day before he passed from cancer at the age of 62, I learned more. I sat at his bedside in the hospital with my mother during his final mortal moments on earth. A day before he passed, dad was in a morphine-induced stupor and began to talk through his life chronologically. Surprisingly he recounted specific details about the final altercation he overheard between his mother and father and his father’s last exit out of the front door of their home.
My parent’s generation did not benefit as my generation has from the spiritual practice of inner healing and the science of psychology. Generally, my parent’s generation was not encouraged to talk about their life traumas and subsequent emotions. The mentality then was to “stuff-it,” “buck-up,” and “get-on-with-life.” My dad did that.
Dad never talked about his feelings or his attitude toward his mother. I can only wonder how he felt, a four-year-old being handed over to the staff at the orphanage. Adding insult to injury, he watched his mother remove his sister from the orphanage and take her home. Dad remained in the orphanage for the next decade.
In the years leading up to my family’s migration to California in 1965, I have memories of grandma Bessie attending many of our family functions. I remember times when dad would load my siblings and me into the car to go and retrieve Grandma from her apartment. Scanning photos from that era, I began to be impressed by how many family events included grandma Bessie. As the photo evidence mounted, this realization impacted my heart. Regardless of whatever my father’s feelings or attitude toward his mother may have been, he honored his mother by including her so often in his family life.
Happily, the orphanage director made sure that the souls entrusted to her care attended church every Sunday. The chosen venue was the First Baptist Church of Waterloo. (The Struthers ancestral line was Scottish Presbyterian) First Baptist Church of Waterloo is where my family and I attended. My mother would brag that she had me in church three weeks after my September 20, 1951 birth. One of the lessons my father and I learned in that Baptist venue was, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12, NIV84) Life flows through honor. In his relationship with his mother, my father chose life and modeled the godly virtue of honor.
When I think of the godly virtue of honor displayed in Biblical accounts, I often remind myself of the story of the Queen of Sheba’s visit with King Solomon.
“When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind.”
(1 Kings 10:1–2, NIV84)
Solomon did not need Sheba to share her wealth with him. Her gifts to Solomon were a tangible way for her to honor Solomon. Royalty honors royalty by sharing their wealth.
Come to think of it; grandma Bessie understood and practiced this principle. It is the nature of grandma’s to treat their grandchildren as royalty! Whenever grandma Bessie attended our family celebrations, she came bearing a gift. It befitted her economic standing in life. Her gift to her family was a tin of individually wrapped hard candy in assorted flavors. My favorite flavor was mango. Even to this day, the taste of mango evokes pleasant memories of grandma’s presence and her present.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are on the planet to serve. Servants do not demand to be honored. To be honored is a blessing bonus; it imparts life. To be dishonored is hurtful and cuts off the flow of life. During His earthly ministry, Jesus experienced what it was to be honored and dishonored. Jesus suffered the ultimate disgrace and dishonor of being executed like a criminal on a Roman cross. His Father glorified Jesus with a seat of authority to His right on His throne. Father God imparted life to Jesus through this bestowed honor. This life continues to flow to those who honor Jesus through their service and discipleship.