One of our God-given responsibilities as parents is to teach our children about God and how to worship Him. As I was traveling a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about the people who have shaped my theology and realized that the foundations were laid by my parents. That does not diminish the impact that my college and seminary professors had on me, but they added on to something that was already there.

I inherited the idea of piety or deep reverence for the divine from my mother. She was raised in the evangelical wing of the Romanian Orthodox Church, called the Lord’s Army. While both of my parents became Baptists before I started first grade, she brought certain things from her childhood faith into her marriage and family life. There was a certain reverence as my mother would read her Bible and kneel by her bed to pray each night. This reverence seemed even deeper when she prayed out aloud—it sounded like someone talking with a lover. She was in love with Jesus like the historical mystics were in love with Jesus. When I started to pray, I was taught to always address Jesus as the Lord Jesus Christ. This was a way of introducing me to the lordship and the majesty of God and reminding me of my privilege to be communing with God.

It is interesting that both my mother and my father dealt with the death of a parent early, and their absent parents colored their entire lives. My father’s mother died shortly after he was born. He was raised by just his father, who never remarried. My mother lost her father and her grandfather in a single day. The shadow of death continued to hover over our family—my father lost his first wife and his first son shortly after the baby was born. In spite of the fact that he had been surrounded by death, my father was one of the happiest people I knew. He always had a twinkle in his eye, he loved to dance, to sing, to tell jokes, and he was full of joy. We lived under an oppressive communist system that took some of our land and taxed us heavily every year. Our table had more corn bread than wheat bread, beans were a constant presence in our meals, and one kilogram of meat was stretched out for a whole week. Yet, we would sing at every meal and my time traveling and working in the fields with my father was filled with happy stories, wisdom gathered from the peasants, and sharing his elation at being gifted by God with his wife and four children. I am one of those people who loves to travel many times on the same road, because the road is never the same. My father had eyes to see new things on the road and in the fields that we worked, and he had an almost artistic appreciation of nature. I learned from him to enjoy the smell of the plowed earth, to greet the worms that came up from the ground, and to follow the apple blossom until it became a fully grown apple and I took a bite of it.

As a result of my parents’ example, I grew up to be someone who prayed piously and lived hilariously. It is important to remember the holiness of God and our privilege to be his children who are able to commune with him, but at the same time one can live in the sovereignty of God and be filled with the joy that comes from that relationship. There have been times when this combination was not regarded as proper. When I was a participant in a funeral, I was laughing with a friend. One of the elders of the church came to remind me that we were in the cemetery, and one does not laugh in the cemetery. I told my brother that while this was an occasion of sorrow, we can still rejoice, and perhaps even laugh because death is not the end of our lives. It is in the cemetery that we can proclaim the resurrection of our loved ones. It is in the cemetery that we remember Paul’s statement that we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. It is that hope that makes us joyful because we believe in the Risen Christ and because He is alive, our loved ones will come back to eternal life—there is joy in that reality.

Thus, the impact of my parents has made me pray hard and pray with reverence. But I also enjoy that prayer time. As the hymn writer observed, “And he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me that I am his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” Because we have been in the presence of Him who is the love and the joy of our prayer lives, we can continue our journey as the most joyful people that the world has ever seen. The relationship that we have with God on this earth is the foretaste of the glory that awaits us in heaven.

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George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...

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