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In Tribute to Grandparents


When I look back over 50 years ago to my childhood, I think I now realise the huge role that my grandparents played in my early life. They loved me and protected me in more ways than I can even describe. My grandfather was a quiet, conscientious man, typical of the working men of this place, who said little, but who lavished undeserved kindness in many practical ways. I was his little helper when he built a greenhouse in his back yard, in their little terraced house off the Newtownards Road in Belfast. We went to the timber merchants together, and I had my own little hammer, to help him with those awkward nails. He built me a puppet show theatre, and a wooden cart with brightly coloured sides. He bought me comics and sat and read them with me. Nothing was better than getting to stay with them for a few nights each week.

I’m not convinced that I always deserved such love. As a child I must have created a few difficult moments. I know I could be demanding and my behaviour may have been, as they say nowadays, ‘challenging.’ I threw wee tantrums and demanded my own way. How often must my grandparents have overlooked my bad behaviour and rebellion? How often must they have been disappointed that the love they showed to me was so poorly repaid, and yet they simply seemed to go on loving and caring.

Sometimes we think that God is a bit like a heavenly grandfather. To some extent that is true. He certainly does love his children unconditionally, and he does lavish upon them his endless care, in many practical ways. But there is one very important difference. Because God’s essential nature is holiness, he can’t just overlook our disobedience and rebellion, for the Scriptures remind us that nothing that is defiled or imperfect can abide in his presence.

So, because he loves us so much, and because our human imperfections can’t match his standard of holiness, God did something truly amazing for us. He gave up his own Son as a substitute for us, to bear all our guilt and all our sin. He demonstrated his love for us in Jesus and in that act of selfless love he went well beyond the love shown to us by our human relationships.

Of course time has marched relentlessly on. Now I’m a grandfather myself, and I hope that I can be as good and as loving and as kind to my grandchildren as my own grandfather was to me.

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