Theologians, authors, martyrs, preachers, a prayerful parent, everyday people—we all have brothers and sisters in Christ who inspire us, challenge us and teach us. They are the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us (Heb 12:1), witnesses of the worth of following Christ. May their words, actions and lives inspire us to live the life of faith.
Certain family heirlooms draw instant mental images of my grandma: an ornate handheld mirror depicting a Victorian woman twirling in a resplendent red dress; a lamb-shaped refrigerator magnet declaring, “Ewe’s Not Fat; Ewe’s Just Fluffy”; an antique anniversary clock that managed to survive four generations without sustaining injury to its delicate glass dome.
The clock is an elegant, Old World relic. It draws power from a torsion pendulum, a mechanism comprising four chrome balls that oscillate clockwise and counterclockwise, powering the clock’s gears in mesmerizing fashion. I spent many cherished moments nestled in my grandma’s lap, staring transfixed at that clock resting beside her fading plush recliner, not knowing that it could run an entire year on a single winding. I didn’t realize how it represented the perseverance of a devoted daughter of Christ.
My mom’s mother grew up in the heart of the Redwoods in northern California. She and my grandpa, an army captain who later advanced to the rank of Air Force colonel, met in a ballroom dancing class at UC Berkeley. The college sweethearts married in 1948 and quickly expanded their family to include three children and a black toy poodle named Pierre. As the first grandchild to debut, I got to witness her gentle care for each new sibling and cousin. She changed diapers, recorded volumes upon volumes of Disney Channel shows, mailed cards to each grandchild on every major holiday, and stood up and cheered at countless school and sports events.
In all my youth and entrance into adulthood, from the days she was driving me to the farm to ride horses to the days I was driving her to chemo treatments, I never heard my grandma speak a harsh word to anyone. Although challenging or painful circumstances frustrated her, she didn’t complain, blame others, or direct anger at the nearest available target. Her composure astonished me, as someone prone to a quick temper and sharp tongue. She seemed immune to bitterness and malice, even in the face of deep relational conflicts and physical suffering, and aimed to extend grace and live in peace with those around her.
My grandmother possessed this gentle audacity to respond to trials with selflessness and conviction, an attitude reflective of our Savior: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet 2:23).
Looking at pictures of my grandma always makes me smile. Her face had a radiant quality—serene, unblemished, bearing a Grace Kelly-esque loveliness. People often commented on her flawless skin, asking what her secret was to stay looking so healthy and young. She joked that it was thanks to her religious use of Noxzema cream every night.
Though time hardly altered her outward appearance, the degeneration of age and health affected her well-being. First, she experienced the ache of seeing my grandpa’s health decline, and grappled with the struggles of caring for someone whose memory was slipping away. I’ll never forget watching her when my grandpa was laid to rest at the veteran cemetery. An officer in full regalia handed her a U.S. flag pleated in the traditional Armed Forces triangle fold, and as tears welled in her eyes, she accepted it with a firm, unwavering grip.
Before she lost her husband, my grandma faced the shock of a stage three breast cancer diagnosis. Throughout the long process of testing and surgeries and treatments, she remained steadfast, following the steps prescribed to her, submitting her health and future to the Lord. It wasn’t that she didn’t feel pain. I saw how the chemo drained her energy; how the cancer ravaged her body to the point she couldn’t get out of bed without assistance. Besides asking for help with basic needs, she mainly requested that her visitors sing hymns and read Scripture. Her physical body wasted away, but her love for Jesus and family thrived to the end.
On her deathbed, she asked how I was doing. That was her nature. Attentive to others, gracious, deferential. Even when she knew her time on Earth was closing, she continued putting others above herself. She modeled the Son’s humility right up until her Father called her home.
Culture tends to portray images of strong women fitting a specific mold—successful businesswoman, outstanding athlete, influential leader. These can be appropriate examples, but if we measure strength solely by public achievements, we miss honoring the excellence of integrity. If we only elevate external displays of might, we overlook the value of a meek and quiet spirit dedicated to humble service and faithful perseverance. We neglect the glory of a gentle life that draws strength from an infinite source of power.
My grandmother subverted the self-asserting agenda of “Nevertheless, She Persisted” in favor of a higher calling: “Nevertheless, She Persisted in Christ.” She fixed her eyes on the author of her faith and boldly followed his lead down the path of submission. As I run my own race and encounter trials that tempt me to quit fighting sin and pursuing holiness, I look to my grandma’s example for courage to press on and ultimately look to Christ, to endure as he did on the cross: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24).
I also think of that hypnotic clock, how pressure builds through the twisting wire in its pendulum, providing enough energy to keep it running for a whole year. When your life is bound with your Savior, tethered to him in the tension of suffering and joy, you can run your whole life and not grow weary. You can walk by faith as strong as my grandma.
This article was originally published at Morning by Morning.