A year ago today, my grandfather passed away. At the time, there was too much going on to really deal with our grief as a family alongside our joy of the end of his sickness and pain, as well as the fact that he would be in heaven for Easter (his absolute favorite time of year). And though I promised I would talk about this all a year ago, I couldn't do it. It was still too fresh and too deep. Today, it is still too fresh and too deep, but there is too much to say in tribute to my Pap, John Finnigan.
I was so blessed to grow up only a few miles from my grandparents; they baby-sat me when I was small and watched me during summers while my parents worked. They taught me letters. They taught me numbers. They read to me and colored with me. I learned to cook. I learned to play games and share and take turns. They taught me the fifty states and the state capitals. They taught me the Pledge of Allegiance. They taught me how to care of pets and how to make dozens of different crafts. They taught me songs and how to play the piano and encouraged me to sing.
Most importantly, they taught me about the Bible. They told me Bible Stories (the real stories, not the kids' Bible versions). They taught me the books of the Bible. They repeated verses to me until I memorized them. They told me about God and His love. They taught me about Jesus.
I can remember spending hours with my grandpa as he showed me archaeology magazines and articles of Biblical findings. He showed me pictures of Israel and Jerusalem, drawings of Solomon's Temple and the post-exilic Temple, and maps of the world of the Bible. While both of my parents taught me so much about the Bible, and while I learned a lot at my Christian School, it was in these moments with my grandpa that the Bible became real and relative to me.
Now, mere weeks from graduating with an M.Div focused on the Old Testament and Hebrew, while struggling through a Greek class, while studying the Bible in-depth on my own, I can't help but remember those times with my grandpa and how, without them, I probably would not be where I am today. Not just academically, but also as a person.
He taught me that all this knowledge and research and study about the Bible was only good for one thing: serving God with my life and inviting others to do the same. I honestly believe that the life lesson he taught me wasn't how important it was to learn, but how valuable that knowledge could be if shared with others.
It was never something he said or taught me, but rather something I saw throughout his life. He spent hours studying and writing books and learning, but he spent just as much time talking to people and praying for them and teaching them about the Bible. He made friends everywhere he went, and I can't remember a time where he did not ask to pray for them, or ask if they knew about Jesus, or if they were still making it to church.
So many times, I have seen friends and colleagues become hardened by researching and disillusioned by theories and study. I have seen books and papers take the place of fellowship and community. Often I have wondered why I am still so burdened and tender-hearted, much more than my cohorts. For a long time, I thought maybe it was more about gender than personality or values, but over the last year of remembering my grandpa I have realized that it probably has to do more with attitude and upbringing. I had a great example in him of how to balance the head and the heart, an example that was passed on to my parents and the rest of our family, and an example I hope to continue to pass on to my family.
So, this post is dedicated to my grandpa, along with my degree, my future career, and my ministry. I hope I can continue to make him proud and be the example he was in our community, our church, our family and in my life.