–November of 1999
A Heritage of Spiritual Reality
I recently enjoyed a wonderful afternoon visit with my good friends Murl and Dorothy Patterson. At 88, Brother Patterson is still strong, active and very proud of his family’s heritage. His grandparents came to this country from Germany and finally put their roots down in Nebraska, settling a short distance south of the Platte River. Brother Patterson’s eyes sparkle as he recounts their stories of meeting Indians, working with the railroad, buying a farm and building it up through hard work. His parents staked their own claim about one mile further west and bought a farm bordering the Platte, right on top of the Oregon Trail. The Pattersons still live on that farm and in the same house where he was born 88 years ago. When you look at the beautiful farm and the hundreds of acres of corn and alfalfa, the huge barns and massive equipment, you realize it took three generations to conquer, tame and mold this farm into what it is today. Though Brother Patterson has put an unbelievable amount of genius and hard work into developing this farm, he would be the first to tell you the farm is what it is today because he could stand on the shoulders of those who came before him.
As proud as Brother Patterson is of the family farm, there is one thing he feels even more deeply about; that is his spiritual heritage. When he speaks of the farm, his eyes sparkle. When he speaks of his grandparents’ and his parents’ love for God and zeal for the church, his voice breaks, his eyes moisten, his attitude reflects deep reverence. In his memory, he is walking on holy ground. He tells of hearing his grandmother pray in the grove, “Lord, save my family and bless them down to the third and fourth generation.” He recounts how his parents helped to start the Sunday school at the Methodist Episcopal Church, and how his dad was later the president of the Western Holiness Association. He recounts wonderful stories of camp meetings with the great holiness preachers of the past. He loves to relive the altar services, the singing and the fellowship.
His grandmother’s prayer has been answered. The lines have fallen to the Pattersons in pleasant places. The faith that was found in his grandparents and his parents can still be found both in him and his children. The light still shines.
Handing down to each generation a heritage of spiritual reality is so important. The greatest gift and inheritance we can give a generation that will follow is the influence and memory of a life well-lived for God, the testimony of a clear conscience and of faith that is real and sincere. Nothing else will really last; nothing else will really matter.
The Old Testament emphasized the importance of each generation serving as a link to spiritual reality. Isaac spoke of the God of his father Abraham. Jacob spoke of the God of Abraham and Isaac. The children of Israel spoke of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Paul wrote to Timothy and charged him not to break faith with his heritage. He admonished him to keep alive the heritage of spiritual reality that was first found in his grandmother Lois and then in his mother Eunice. Timothy could build on that heritage and pass it on to another generation, or he could lose it for coming generations.
Each generation must discover God for themselves. Yet, we can point the way and allow them to build on a heritage of faithfulness.