"How we see and accept things, makes all the difference in life. With the heart of a child, we can see with God's eyes." 

 

YCCM PART III THE HEART OF A CHILD 

Chapter 9

PAPA

 

My grandfather, whom I dearly loved and who displayed the same affection for me, was a tall and burly man, from the South, having what is politely referred to as, a large girth. He was a giant, in my eyes. He had big strong hands, that you didn't want to have to make contact with, if he threatened to give you a whooping.

 

I will try to give you an accurate and picturesque description of the man I called Papa, so that you may better ascertain Papa's relationship with family, church, religion, law, the world and God.

 

To begin with, I must tell you that my Papa was a drinking man--of whiskey, that is, but, always a hard-working factory man, and a family man, who took care of his family. He took time with his children and grandchildren. One of my favorite things was helping Papa in our garden. From what I can remember, Papa was a very capable man.

 

However, he'd long-since ceased shining his shoes for Sunday morning services and his newsboy cap or fedora, which I loved to playfully steal from atop his balding head, seemed to him, to better rest atop a bar stool, rather than on a church pew.

 

Yet, it hadn't always been that way. The son of a southern preacher, he knew his Bible and considered himself to be a God-fearing man. He'd seen his days inside of a church.

 

While he lived, he never stopped supporting the Baptist church, where he and my grandmother belonged. He saw to it that his family obeyed God's commandments and had godly morals and didn't mind sparing the rod and spoiling the child to see that it took.

 

I never knew what stood in the way of Papa going back to church, other than the liquor and attachment to socializing at the bar. Perhaps, it was out of respect for his upbringing and his pa and on account of people might call him a hypocrite. I don't know, but, it didn't seem right to me. I'd seen a whole lot more hypocritin' in the church, so Papa would have plenty of company to help him work out his souls salvation, as they say. In my eyes, Papa was just as good as anybody else.

 

Papa, was an avid reader and studier of legal books and the Word. In our extended household, Papa's time to read the paper; watch the news on television;  listen to it on the radio; and study his law books and the Bible were sacred times. He was NOT to be disturbed.

 

I often wondered where Papa got all those thick books about the law, that lined the shelves up to the ceiling. What was so interesting in them about the law, that he spent hours studying them, with such intensity and seriously seeming to enjoy it? It didn't look like fun to me.

 

Although, I loved to read as a child, I never touched them much. They looked too official and they felt too official, like soldiers in uniform, standing at attention. It was like they were tabu--forbidden, priceless and valuable and only someone as giant as Papa could lift them and understand them.

 

I looked in a few once. They had thousands of tiny words all jumbled together. There weren't any pretty pictures, either. No wonder Papa pulled out his horn-rimmed glasses and took all evening to read them.

 

Papa grew up at a time when men like him were denied the opportunity to better themselves and their families, but Papa managed.  He made sure he stayed educated and informed about what was going on in the world.

 

The law and the Word--these were two things that Papa  knew about and no one could take it away from him.

 

I saw Papa as having been a pioneer, determined to start a better life. When news of the booming car industry and rubber factories in the North sent thousands of underpaid and out of work southerners, black and white, scampering to get a piece of the American pie, Papa, his brothers and cousins were amongst those fleeing the oppression of Old Jim Crow Laws in the South.

 

He packed up his gear, left his family down in the deep South and with his wife and child, ventured to the cold lands of the North, where smokestacks lined the skylines and filled the air with dirty pollutants; the residuals of progress, efficiency and convenience for an accelerating society in an economy driven, industrial world; at least that's what the history books say.

 

To say the least, Mama and Papa worked hard to take care of their growing family. They were once small town entrepreneurs, owning and operating a grocery store. Papa was able to get hired in as a permanent worker at one of the big rubber factories. They even bought a house.

 

During the Great Depression and the years following they fed and raised six children, but one baby, a girl, later died.  My grandma said she had lost another too, that didn't go full-term. Women had to take their chances back then, without the regular prenatal care women have today.

 

Papa and Mama, well, they'd seen their hard times and their good times, like anybody else, back then. They watched their sons go off to war and return home changed and wounded men.

 

They were able to send some children to college, one being my mother, and they began what would continue to be generations of college educated young people in the family.

 

Outside of a few vices (cigar smoking, pipe smoking, tobacco chewing, whiskey drinking, and his job as a bar bouncer, while socializing down at the family-owned bar, with his cousins) folks down South would probably say that Papa had made a good life for himself and his family.  I bet the Old Reverend would have been proud of how hard he worked to raise his family right. 

 

It may seem that I've gotten completely off subject, but Papa's life and story has an important place at this juncture and I feel I must tell it, as part of my story, relating to the heart of a child.

 

Papa didn't want to be just anybody. He wanted to be a lawyer. However, the country he lived in was in such bondage, that it denied him the right to be a man and a human-being, because of the color of his skin. Mmm-mm, I don't know what kind of disease can make so many people sick in the head all at the same time and nobody notices how sick they are. Then, those folks who do notice, decide to mind their own business and let it go on for years. The disease must effect everybody differently.

 

Nevertheless, Papa managed to make a life for himself and his family in the North. Still, all his dreams did not come true. Had Papa had the opportunity to earn a law degree, I know that he would have been a giant among lawyers and fed Old Jim Crow enough legal jargon to make him croak. However, somehow, Papa managed. He drank and he knew the law.

 

Now, I'm not slighting my Papa or being disrespectful. I have great respect and admiration for all he did for me and my family. He lived in a place and time where he had to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders and continue to try to hold his head up high. When the world told him he was nothing, he didn't just give up. He had courage, respect for others, honesty and integrity, but he still lacked one thing.

 

But don't get me wrong. I don't for one moment think that Papa stopped believing in God, but at some point Papa stopped trusting God to change him. But, God NEVER gave up on Papa. God knew what Papa had been through and what he was going through.

 

The wars had changed two of his boys; scarred them real deep inside and they took to drinking heavier than Papa. Once in a while it was like a battlefield and a war going on inside our house, when Papa got on his boys. "Pap," is what my uncles called their father and they knew they better respect Pap and shape up. It broke Papa's heart I think to see them messed up, trying to follow after him.

 

Papa counted his blessings one by one and was thankful,  but I guess he multiplied his troubles inside and took to managing them at the bar.

 

Besides my uncles, Papa, my mother's father, was the only father I really knew. He had an active part in my life and influenced me, greatly. At that time, during my early childhood, I had never met my father. So when, Papa came home, I wanted to be close to him.

 

I would take off his big, heavy work boots or dress shoes, roll down his long thin socks and rub his hard, dry, scaly legs and feet, sometimes with some Watkins ointment.  As I look back on these heartfelt memories, I see the unconditional love of a child, for a man she trusted and despite his habits, admired.

 

I would sit on his lap, poke his big stomach, take off his suspenders and play with his balding head, hairy nose and ears. He didn't seem to mind and somewhat welcomed the pain and pestering.

 

I loved to watch him get his hair cut, when his barber friend came over. They were funny, together. Papa didn't have that much hair around the sides, but it sure would take a long time for them to get done with all the talking they did.

 

He knew just how to get grandma in a tizzy. She was a quiet and meek woman, who had learned to manage in her own way, keeping to herself, but Papa staying out late and drinking would get her agitated and fussy. Still, Papa managed and I watched him.

 

We'd sit outside on the porch, while he entertained friends and family or in the living room and I'd watch him read and take long naps. They became longer and longer, as he grew ill and aged. He starting coughing a lot, real hard. 

 

My ma said he had emphysema from smoking and his factory work. She said that his breathing in all that dust from the dirt streets in our neighborhood made it even worse. So, she took to being an activist, meeting with city officials and neighborhood folks. Meanwhile, Papa managed and I watched him.

 

After his death, the pages of the law books were no longer turned and the hats weren't interesting, without the wearer.

 

One of Papa's boys, one of the older boys, didn't make it and died. Like Papa, he was a tortured soul, still hanging on to dreams out of his reach, but it drug him down and buried him at an early age. Papa's youngest son faired better. He surrendered all to God, went through a miraculous recovery and healing and became a faithful servant in the church and community.

 

My grandfather was denied opportunities, but God used him in another way; to give opportunities to others.

 

Perhaps, if he would have allowed God to change and strengthen him, he would have gone beyond just managing and conquered this old world full of injustice; no longer a slave to a lie; the lie that life had cheated him and he had gone as far as he could go.

 

The greatest opportunity, he could ever have was right before him, in the pages he read--abundant and eternal life. I know that my Papa knew that and I believe that towards the end, God managed and somehow my Papa was freed.

 

My grandfather was not unlike many people in the world today, content to know the laws of God and live under them, unable to break free of lies and bondage.

 

Are you aware that there is someone watching you? Are you trusting God to change you or have you found your own way of coping and managing, while remaining in bondage to a lie?

 

Today, I'm a grandmother, with watchers and little pranksters of various ages and sizes. I have my avid readers,  who love to read like me and Papa; intellectuals, mathematicians and scientists;  musicians and artists; socializers and rabble-rousers; athletes and soldiers, who enjoy a more active lifestyle; and my activists, and budding prosecutors, who can deliver a strong and convincing argument for the prosecution, demanding justice and a verdict of guilty for the accused sibling(s); that they be punished to the full extent of the law. My grandchildren are an interesting, motley crew, who bring me tremendous joy and reason for rest and relaxation. Papa would have enjoyed them and like me, be ready for a long nap. 

 

The children are growing fast and most often, they soon go off and pursue their individual interests, but on occasion, I find them--watching me.

 

I learned a lot about life and managing, watching Papa. No doubt, it prepared me for taking care of my own family. My mother was as dedicated as Papa, when it came to family, no doubt, she had watched Papa, too.

 

People find different ways to try and manage what’s troubling them instead of trusting God to change them and before you know it...we've made a mess of our lives and we don't know how to fix it.

 

We all think we know how to manage. It’s not always drinking. There's a long list of ways people try to manage, that are legal and illegal; not specific to gender, race, wealth or status.

 

The adversary has a yoke tailored to fit everybody's neck.  People can be work-a-holics, control freaks, plastic surgery fanatics, soapbox opera and reality show addicts, parents living vicariously through their children, spendthrift collectors, drug addicts, gamblers, sex addicts, compulsive liars, continual gossipers, abusive, fingernail-biters; videogame addicts, shop-a-holics, hoarders and people with all types of fetishes, self-mutilators, people with eating disorders and probably more ways of being in bondage than you and I could ever think of. We humans have quite an imagination, when it comes to self-destruction.

 

Now, that I've been on this journey, back through time, those days when things aren't going to my liking and I find myself slipping into--just managing, instead of trusting God, my grandfather's life echoes to me, fondly. Not because of his mistakes, but because I know that God has allowed me to stand upon his broad and sturdy shoulders and many others like him, who were denied opportunities, but paved the way for others, with a price.

 

I know God watched over my Papa, while he was out there managing, but, I wish God would have let me give Papa my heart to trust Him all the time, like I trusted Papa.

 

The heart of a child is beautiful, trusting, loving unconditionally and needing to be loved. They put their faith in you to supply their every need. They trust you with their heart and with their life. They want to be close to you. They mimic you in many ways; wanting to be like you.

 

God wants us to come to Him with a child-like heart, having these same characteristics and desires. He wants to love and care for us as our Father.

 

Growing up, one of the first things we discover is that life in this world isn't fair. Could that be the moment when our heart stops being child-like? Could that be the moment when the world takes over our heart and fills it with lies so that we stop trusting God to change us?

 

If it is, let us all go back to that moment! Let us recapture our innocence. Let us humble ourselves and repent of our unfaithfulness to God! If it were only that simple...or...is it?

 

We could all go on just managing, or better yet, come to God with the heart of a child and NEVER stop trusting Him to change us. There is so much more ahead, if we trust and obey. We have His promise because of the sacrifice of His Son, that life's journey never ends for those who believe in Him. (John 3:15,16)

 

15] That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

 

[16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

 

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SELF REFLECTION: A Look in the Mirror

 

Once again, when we look at Jesus' parables, He is challenging us to examine where our heart lies. Closely examining your heart, answer the questions below.

 

DISCUSS your answers with a mature Believer who can guide you in your spiritual relationship with Jesus and our Father, and/or have group discussions to learn from those who have different experiences and perspectives.

 

QUESTIONS: Write down your questions and discuss them with a mature Believer or submit them to this blog.

 

 

  1. Is there someone you watched, when you were a child? Write about them and how they influenced you.
  2. Did you notice any of their faults or weaknesses? 
  3. Did you mimic any of their behaviors?
  4. What has happened in your life that you cannot accept now or had difficulty accepting in the past?
  5. Have you talked to God and others about those things which you cannot accept? If not, why not?
  6. Have you ever developed any habits, behaviors, pastimes or addictions as a way of managing (coping with) your problems or stress in your life? 
  7. Does God see your heart as being like a child's heart, or have you too forgotten how it feels to be able to love and trust unconditionally? 
  8. Have you stopped growing and changing, because, you don't trust God with your heart and your life? 
  9. Do you believe you've gone as far as you can go in life? Why or why not?
  10. Do you believe God has given up on you? Why or why not? Reread John 3:15,16
  11. If you need help with a behavior problem or addiction, will you come to God with a child-like heart and trust Him to change you? 
  12. Will you open your heart to let others help you and to let go of shame and guilt that keeps you in bondage? 
  13. Will you repent, turn from your ways and accept Jesus and God's Holy Spirit into your heart to be reborn with a new mind, the Mind of Christ?
  14. Will you follow Christ and abide in Him?
  15. Is there someone watching you manage? How can you help them lead a better life?

 

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Published by Mishael T