As many know, my grandfather passed away on September 20th. I've never heard of a death that came at a convenient time. However, the notification of my grandfather's death came in the middle of packing for our long weekend in Mobile, Alabama for a Pastor's Conference.
As casually as one can, I read the text message from my mother and casually told my wife the news. Thankfully I was decently stocked with beer. A couple bottle tops were popped and the evening of discussion and distraction was on. Our trip was cancelled and questions about the viewing/funeral schedule seemed to be easiest to discuss.
Fast forward a full week to the funeral. Both the viewing and graveside service took place in San Antonio, Texas. Not a far drive at all but long enough to get my thinking cap on. Having recently been persuaded to adopt a more covenantal perspective of family and church life, this death had an interesting ring to it. Though my grandfather was a believer his more profound impacts on my life were not spiritual. Music? Sure. Love for beer and smokes? Yes (fighting the smokes). But my grandfather was not patriarchal in the Old Testament sense.
In modern times, it is quite easy to look at families in the "nuclear" sense. Who lives in the house? Who paid for whom's food while they were growing up? Those are the bounding boxes of our family relationships. *Notice that when we use these the world can redefine family however they want.* But that isn't a family. Or better it isn't the whole family. In the book of Genesis I see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Patriarchs so firmly planted in faith, despite their faults, that they define a nation permanently.
My grandfather was not this type of patriarch. That was no direct fault of his. Few churches in America would have instructed him in this holy manner. But it brought to my mind the realization that I had been promoted. I am no longer someone's grandson (in an active relational sense). I am now only a son. And now through my line, my son and daughter are only grandchildren.
They are being raised in a household that is more patriarchal for sure. But is it one that is aware of its obligation and not just its authority? I hope to find out. My father has been awakening to this patriarchal duty at almost the same time as me. And while that gives me a jump on him, it also means the standards of successes and expectation is higher. Today I am celebrating my twenty-seventh birthday. In the next twenty-seven years it is possible I'll be a grandfather. In the twenty-seven years after that it is possible I'll no longer be a son.
I will enjoy passing on my love for music, football, hockey, beer and even smokes. I will enjoy passing down funny stories of ridiculous times without wireless internet. But am I allowing the Scriptures to slowly make me into the type of grandfather that will change the world? If I want to be an Israel blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, then I first need to be the Jacob that wrestles with God. That's some serious generational recalibration.