Cleaning in my back bedroom the other day, I stood for a moment looking at the chest of drawers that belonged to my grandmother. When I was growing up the chest sat in the corner of my grandparents’ bedroom on the ranch in South Dakota. You did not enter their room unless invited, so to a child’s eye the chest stood, quietly, almost sentinel-like in a place of serenity.
In my mother’s childhood, Grandma had run a post office and grocery store out of the back bedroom and my Grandfather had installed a gas pump. They had to make a little extra money to keep the ranch going. From that business Grandma was able to buy a desk for my Grandfather and the chest for herself, two pieces of furniture that are still in our family. As my mother did, I use the chest for storing linens and other items I don’t use often but want to keep. And I don’t want to wear the chest out from overuse.
As I moved on with my cleaning, it struck me that the chest reminded me a little of our personal Christian faith. At the beginning of our lives faith is often a gift from grandparents and parents who encouraged us in the faith. We cherish that faith and honor those who pass it on to us. On Christmas Eve the church fills with many folks who are there because “we always did this at Grandma’s” or “because Mom and Dad would want us to be here”. Like the chest in my bedroom, for many people faith is a thing of beauty, a treasured piece of life, but an antique nonetheless. We wouldn’t want to wear it out from overuse, or so it seems.
A friend of mine once told me a question she had been asked when she attended seminary, “Are you a Christian because you have been told or are you a Christian because you know?” Faith is meant to be who we are, a living, breathing testament to the love of God in our lives and to God’s grace, always active and full of the gift of peace. We are meant to radiate our faith in all we do, living lives of meaning and purpose.
Grandma’s chest of drawers is something I will treasure for its family history. It is a piece of who I am, but my faith is not an antique. Faith never wears out from overuse, it only grows stronger. As a child I believed because I was told, but now I know because God knows me fully and completely as only God can.