This is part of a new series on the blog surrounding the ordinary faithfulness of the body of Christ and the work of the Spirit throughout it. Click here to see all of the pieces. My hope is you will be encouraged and spurred on to be faithful in the small.
They say senses hold memories. I know it’s true. The sound of birds. The warmth of a breeze blowing through a screen door. The sight of light refracting through the hundreds of edges of a crystal chandelier.
These memories take me to another place. I see myself running through the yard of my grandparents’ house picking the hard red berries that fell from their tree. I can feel the bushes against my arms while I run the path at the back of their property and smell the prize of the small lemon tree. I can hear the boards of the treehouse groan beneath my feet while I play house with my baby or pretend that I’m a navigator on a great ship.
The grip of memories is fascinating. I barely recall what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can still taste the dates in my six-year-old mouth as I held my grandmother’s hand walking through the neighborhood farmers’ market.
I grew up in southern California. Palm trees studded the streets, a trip to Disneyland was everyday life, and seeing snow was a vacation. My family left for Indiana before I turned eight- leaving our church, schools, friends, and all of my grandparents behind. In a world before Skype, communication with my grandparents turned into phone calls, occasional visits, and VHS tapes of piano recitals and swim meets mailed in boxes.
Yet I can still hear the birds chirping out my grandmother’s back door. I can still feel the touch of her short, bristly grass on my feet or see the strawberry patches outside her side yard.
You only have to hear some songs once to get their rhythm stuck in your head. And if I remember anything about my grandmother, it’s the rhythms she gave me.
Visits were always marked by the repetition we could count on. A pool to swim in. A bird cage to clean. A sweet treat from the freezer brought in by grandpa. A tea party upstairs. The Waltons after dinner. It was always the same.
Each piece of our visit cemented in me a sense of the familiar. In the few years my younger memory has of her, my grandmother cultivated a sense of faithfulness for me. But what I’m most thankful for is how her rhythms also cultivated a sense of the faithfulness of God.
She did this by giving us the rhythm of song. Whenever my grandma drove us places, we would pile in their Buick, and grandma would hand us an index card with lyrics to a song. While on the way to church, school, or any other destination- we would sing, and have no excuse to be lacking for words. In that backseat I was reminded again and again of my faithful God. My mouth sung about the friend I had in Jesus, the sin he bore, and the privilege it was to bring prayers before his name. My biggest prayers at the time were about finding lost toys so I wouldn’t get in trouble, but the truths became written on my heart. I can trust him. I can talk to him. Grandma believes this too.
The simple streams of song filled our days and closed out our evenings. At the end of the night my grandmother would sit on my bed, lightly rub my back, and sing of God’s love for me. She’d sing about dwelling with Jesus and about serving others.
They were simple children’s songs, but they were used to show me God’s faithfulness. Through this regular act, done again and again, Christ was always set before my eyes.
I’m thirty-one years old, and I now parent my own three children. Often I wonder if I’m pointing enough to Christ. Did I do enough? Did I say enough?
Then I remember my grandmother, and the simple rhythms that stayed with me twenty-five years later. I think of the words and the songs that are etched into my mind. I remember how the God who was a friend to me through spelling tests and scraped knees is the same God who bears the grief of shattered hopes and the pain of death.
J.C. Ryle once wrote that “youth is the planting time of full age, the molding season in the little space of human life.” As we look to the plants, how much of that growing season is fostered by something so ordinary as the regular rhythms of water, sun, soil?
Though small and maybe even obvious, the small rhythms of our days matter. The truth is, we don’t have to worry about orchestrating the big moments. Because our children’s faith doesn’t depend on us at all, but on the God who is working and shaping their hearts using something as ordinary as our obedience in the small things.
Maybe for you it’s singing, special verses, routine bedtime conversation, silly stories, or yearly traditions. In the midst of these simple days the Spirit is working, and we can pray that he will use our ordinary, simple, faithful acts to do his incredible life-giving work.
My grandmother is still at it these days. A move to live closer has enabled me to hear her voice sing the same precious songs to my own three children. I’ve been able to listen while my six-year old daughter sings about that little bird on the top of the tree singing about God’s love for her. One generation passes on the rhythm of God’s goodness to another.
It’s ordinary faithfulness. And it’s extraordinary.