There’s an old Point of Grace song that I love:
I’m livin’ the legacy
That the faithful have laid down
I’m livin’ the legacy
Findin’ the hope that my fathers [sic] found
I am standing tall, when I’m on my knees
I’m livin’ the legacy.
As I approach my ordination just two days from now, those lyrics are running through my head. I’m mindful of the reality that I would not be here, at this significant moment, if it weren’t for the prayers of my parents and grandparents. (And perhaps there’s a bit of talent and a whole lot of crazy thrown in there too.)
I think especially of my paternal grandfather, Lauren Vande Zande. I’ve been going over some ancestral history in preparation for a two-week orientation that I have with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after my ordination. IV places great significance on ethnic identity and honoring each others’ stories, so they asked us to do some prep work on the history of our family before we meet together in Madison starting on Monday. They want us to know where we’ve come from so that we can discover the ways in which our history and culture shape us. We seek to understand ourselves so that we can understand others, and discover the ways in which people of every tribe, tongue, and nation are loved and valued by God, and what gifts we each have to contribute to the human experience.
I asked my parents to remind me of a few facts that I was fuzzy on. Among them, I know that I am 100% Dutch, even though my mother is the fourth generation of her family living in the U.S., and my father is the fifth. It’s amazing to me that our ethnic identity has continued for this many generations, although my generation certainly has more diversity in it–which is a very good thing.
Aside from being humored by our profound Dutchness though, I was impressed with the depth of my grandfather’s faith. As I read the short autobiography he wrote back in 1994, I could feel the weight of his treasured faith settle on my shoulders like a warm, comforting blanket. This is where you come from. This is why you are who you are. I was in awe, and felt privileged. All throughout its pages, my grandpa constantly references his Christian faith–how his parents were faithful church attendees, how he was part of a huge Sunday School class and greatly admired their pastor, and how he thanks the Lord for saving his life after taking a leg full of shrapnel as he fought in Germany during World War II. It wasn’t something he wanted to do. It wasn’t even something he was trained to do. Grandpa was trained as a radar man and was sent into combat as part of infantry replacements. He prayed each day for the Lord to preserve his life, and tells numerous stories of the Christians he became friends with in his battalion, and how they all relied on each other to get through some very tense, fear-filled days. Those relationships endured after the war.
When he returned to the U.S. as a result of his leg injury, he carried his legacy of faith on with his children–of which my father is the oldest. For my parents, faith matters. Our relationship with Jesus matters more than food, clothing, shelter, and even almond paste (a fantastic Dutch treat).
As a result of my grandparents’ and parents’ faith, I find myself in the place I am today. About to be ordained in the denomination that has raised me and nurtured me–the Reformed Church in America. Yes, I went to seminary and wrote all the papers, and took all the exams, and read all the books, but I didn’t really get myself here. They did. And now I work with college students in California because I want them to have the opportunity to start or continue their own legacy of faith.
I know Jesus because of my amazing grandparents on both sides. Each of them had a relationship with Jesus, but I think we know more about Grandpa’s because it mattered so much that he couldn’t help but talk, and later write, about it. I am who I am because of my Grandpa. Grandpa went to be with Jesus in 2007, and I’m not sure he ever really knew how much I loved and admired him. I wish I had said more and done more with him when I had the chance. But his legacy lives on, and I stand in it every day. I am so grateful. I love you, Jesus. I love you Grandpa. Thank you.
How about you?
Do you know any of your ancestral and ethnic history?
What is your spiritual history? Who played a significant role?