By Diane Averill
As I thought of what to share about passing on a legacy of faith, my thoughts turned to the individuals who had the greatest impact on my faith. Certainly, it was my parents, my older sister, Sunday School teachers, and even Christian college professors. But in recent years, as I have gotten older, my thoughts have turned to my maternal grandmother and how her spiritual life shaped mine.
My grandmother, Mari Megyesi, came to America from Hungary in the early 1900s as a very young bride, and she and my grandfather set out to make a life for themselves and their family. When she was a young mother, my grandmother began to question the empty rituals of the faith in which she had been raised. It was at this time that a friend encouraged her to begin reading the Bible and consider what Jesus had done for her, and as a result, my grandmother began a spiritual journey with her Savior.
I was able to watch that journey firsthand, because as a widow, she came to live with my family when I was in preschool. I now had three loving adults pouring into my life, and even now I can see snapshots in my head of my grandmother living out her faith. She only had a third-grade education, but she taught herself to read, and the only book I ever saw her read was her Bible. I know it was this spiritual snapshot of her love for scripture that helped me to love scripture too. Growing up, my sister and I shared a bedroom with my grandmother, so another spiritual snapshot that I plainly remember was my grandmother kneeling beside her bed every night and praying. I can’t help but think my attitude about prayer was influenced by watching her struggle to get down on arthritic knees to commune with God.
Along with scripture and prayer, a third way my grandmother influenced my life was her love for people and her concern to share her faith. She sought to pass on what she had received to others, and I remember years after my grandmother’s death meeting a woman who had come to faith through her influence.
So as I think about what it means to leave a legacy of faith, I think of how important it is to help those we can influence to gain a love of reading and studying the Bible. It may be your children or your grandchildren, a teen you mentor, or a friend. In a world where truth seems malleable, how wonderful to be able to encourage others to read the true words of life. I recently read about a grandmother who offered to lead a Bible study for her adult grandchildren, some of whom did not attend church. She was surprised at how much they wanted to be a part of the study. I want to be that kind of grandmother, who was so welcoming and nonjudgmental that her grandchildren would be drawn to open the Bible with her.
Leaving a legacy of prayer can include spending time praying for family, friends, and neighbors. I heard of a pastor who approached retirement with excitement because he knew he now had hours available to pray. I wonder how many people approaching retirement feel excited that they can pray more.
Loving others and sharing life with them is the final legacy my grandmother left me, so this is something I want to pass on to those around me. In our chaotic world, spending time with someone is the “cup of cold water.” Developing caring relationships that can offer an opportunity to share the hope we have in Christ can even impact an entire family line. The woman who shared her faith with my grandmother could not have known that she would set into motion a family of believers that would now include my grandmother Mari’s great-great-grandchildren. What a legacy of faith! So as I look at my grandmother’s life, I can’t help but ask, what types of spiritual snapshots am I leaving with those around me?
Diane Averill has worked for an outreach Bible study ministry called Global Coffee Break for over 30 years. She has done training in the U.S. and overseas. She also has co-authored study guides for various books of the Bible and mentored leaders. She recently was part of a team that completed four study guides for the book of Isaiah. Her most important roles include being happily married to a retired pastor, a mother to four married children, and a grandmother to 12 rather terrific grandchildren.