|Virginia Engel Hess|
Growing up in the small community of Holgate, Ohio, my mother was the daughter of a farmer/Reformed lay preacher who loved the Lord with all his heart. I well remember my grandfather reading the Bible to me instead of story books, and I can still see him kneeling in prayer before he took his daily nap. He died in a tragic car/train crash when I was six years old. The devastating loss shook my mother to the core. Only four years before, she suffered a breakdown at the loss of my baby sister Rebekah who died several hours after birth. Now she was faced with yet another loss. However, her faith sustained her even through this trial.
Many times I would find her reading the Psalms as she told me she had a good deal of comfort from them. She encouraged me to read them and pray them as she had done. She was faithful to church attendance and made certain that both my sister and I were in Sunday School and confirmation classes. The hours she spent just talking to me about things that troubled me or hurt me cannot be counted, and always, she suggested that I pray about those things.
When I was stricken with Bulbar Polio at the age of seven, she and my father put their lives on hold to be with me while I was hospitalized. They spent countless hours working with me when I came home to help rehabilitate me. In fact, mother spent many hours grinding up food so I could eat since my throat muscles had been damaged. Once again, her faith carried her through and enabled her to manage the daily load. We had frequent conversations when I was older about what it was like when I was so sick. She always remarked about how God had brought me through this.
While I recall all this so vividly now, it was like looking through a translucent glass at the time. I heard my mother's call to faith. I went to church with her. I memorized portions of the catechism, and I sailed through confirmation class and the examination by the elders. I prayed the Psalms in my room as she had suggested, and I loved singing hymns. However, my heart had not yet awakened to the call of God through Christ. In Reformed circles, we call it regeneration. It is the moment when God calls that dead person from the grave of sin to a new life in Christ. When my appointment time came to hear the Good News with unclogged ears, I heard Him call and accepted with joy. Thus began my own "pilgrim's progress" as I journey towards my eternal home.
Scripture describes my condition and the condition of all who do not know the Lord:
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
New International Version (NIV)
"3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." However, God called me to Himself at just the right moment in my life and used all the seeds planted by my mother and father through the years. For this, I am humbled and thankful.
Now, as I stand looking back, I see where I was and how black my sin had become. No I was not as bad as I could have been. In fact, society would think I was quite moral, but my heart was coated with sin until the Lord replaced it with a new one. Where once I was blind, I now see more clearly each day just how the Lord had been leading me, and how He had provided for me parents who loved me. While my mother and father were not perfect (which they would readily admit even as I was not a perfect parent), yet they provided me with spiritual nurture and guidance. My mother taught me many things about faith so that when the Lord called me to Himself, I responded.
When we are dead in our trespasses and sins, we look through veiled eyes as I did. We cannot see or appreciate those around us who share the "Good News". However, when God calls us from our death slumber in sin, our eyes are opened. We see not only who God is and rejoice in His salvation, but we come to realize as the years go by just how marvelous His work in us has been as He used parents, friends, neighbors and others to prepare us for that moment. Ephesians 2:4-6 says:
"…4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,…" How great a work He has done, and how much thanksgiving we owe to Him and those who sowed into our lives.
Each day, God brings more rich memories to my heart, and I appreciate the way in which my mother, father, and others poured into my life. I see now what an influence godly parents have on their children, and I am thankful. Two thoughts as I close come to mind. First, take time to say thank you to those who have sown in your life whether they are parents, pastors, friends, or neighbors. If you are a Christian, it is because God has called you to Himself, and the seeds planted by those faithful people have come to fruition by the grace of God. Secondly, we must also take time to sow in the lives of our children as well as those with whom we have contact. We are commissioned to do this by the authority of Jesus Christ both in word and deed. May God help us to be faithful ambassadors in the lives of others so we may bring glory to Him. Selah!
From our house to yours....Happy Thanksgiving! May the love of Christ richly bless you and those you love!