Sara Faye’s mother is 85 years old [in 1997]. Since 1939, she has lived in her little rock house in Middle Tennessee. She doesn’t go out much, but she still takes care of her house and yard — sweeping off the steps, picking up little sticks that blow on the porch, and even raking some leaves. She has now survived her husband and most of her friends, although her only sister, slightly younger, lives just 15 miles away. The truth is, she is very lonely much of the time, there in her little rock house which has been “home” for 58 years.
My wife is an only child and we love having Grandma visit us — the longer the better! Some day we hope she will move in with us for good, but she keeps saying she isn’t ready for that yet. In the meantime, we hit on a plan of alternating “homes,” by which Grandma visits us in Houston for three months, then returns for three months to her house in Tennessee. We’ve done that a couple of cycles now, and we went last week to help her pack for another stint at our place. We explained the plan repeatedly, reminding Grandma for several weeks that we would soon be coming to Tennessee to bring her back for a visit. Her comments took us aback therefore when we called a couple of days before we left. “I’ve been feeling pretty sad lately,” she told us. “I’m afraid you’re going to sell my house when you come. I’ve been looking at some of the things in the basement, and I had to cry a little.”
We gently explained (for the umpteenth time) that we had no such intention, that we wouldn’t think of selling her house or moving her away from it without her consent, so long as she was able to make decisions for herself. We even felt a little hurt that she would suspect us of such uncharitable conduct. But we understood the reason for her confused perception, as she also does in her better moments, and simply reassured her of our devotion and unconditional love.
The scenario made me wonder how our suspicion and mistrust must make God feel. “Can I really be saved?” we wonder — in spite of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus in our place. “Does God really love me?” we ask ourselves, almost doubting that it can be true. “What if I don’t understand this doctrine correctly?” we inquire. “Is God angry because I sinned? Will he throw me into hell because I am not perfect?”
“Fear not,” God’s angels almost always begin by saying. “God is for us,” Scripture assures. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but might have eternal life.” “God is love,” the New Testament tells us. “Perfect love casts out fear.” That’s true of relations between Grandma and us. It’s true of our relationship with the heavenly Father. The difference is that Grandma is 85 years old and has a good excuse.