The following is a forward I recently wrote for my grandfather’s first book which he penned at the age of 85.
“And the faith you handed downhas somehow stuck around.”– Andrew Peterson
When my grandfather asked me to write the forward to his first book, it made sense.
After all, I had authored my first book just four years ago. Maybe my book triggered a longing to write – a desire which had been dormant for the first 84 years of my granddad’s life. Maybe it acted as a catalyst to put on paper the stories he’d been verbally telling for years, familiar yarns that are as much a part of our family culture as the smell of grandma’s macaroni pie baking in the oven.
Still, maybe it had nothing to do with me. Perhaps there was another driving force that made this family patriarch decide to pen his first manuscript. Could it have been the pursuit of legacy? Piecing together the events of one’s life in autobiographical fashion does provide a sense of lasting heritage. Yet, the chapters in this book don’t boast of grandeur or macho ambition. Instead, these stories are mostly lighthearted accounts – humorous retellings of well-worn memories.
No, I doubt there’s a need to romanticize the inner yearnings which led to the book you hold in your hands. I think it simply boils down to this: my grandfather is a storyteller at heart. He can’t help but to entertain others with words.
When I say it makes sense that I write this forward, it’s not because my book birthed his. Rather, it’s the other way around. My grandfather’s gift of communication helped shape me into the man I am today. His stories, those he told and the one he lived out, formed mine.
I could fill a separate book with accounts of how my grandfather gave of himself to invest in me. He helped me secure my first job as a bag boy at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. He taught me to drive in grandma’s minivan in the old strip mall parking lot. He showed me how to create a budget on a spiral notebook which he kept in the front pocket of his blue cotton shirt issued by the postal service.
Yes, it’s fitting I write the forward to this older man’s book – fitting because my grandfather fashioned the actual forward to my life as I transitioned into a young man.
As such, the most important story granddad taught me was the gospel: the good news of Jesus dying on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for sins and rising again. Granddad didn’t proclaim Jesus’ gospel as merely a story to be believed in the head; he taught it as the grand truth on which to anchor one’s life. Going back to the spiral notebook budget, I remember granddad unapologetically showing me how to calculate the tithe as the first line item. Granddad had a faith that considered Christ the ultimate treasure and proved it in the way he managed his earthly resources.
No, granddad may not have written a book for the purpose of leaving a legacy, but that’s exactly what he did. In particular, he accomplished this by closing out his final chapter of his book with the story of Christ. Aptly titled, “How to be Born Again,” this brief conclusion to my grandfather’s first (and probably only) book pleads with the reader to consider Christ’s invitation to believe in the gospel and repent of sin. Could there be any greater legacy for a man than to dedicate his final chapter to living out the Great Commission to friends, family, and future generations?
I’ll conclude with one last account of my grandfather. He refrained from using the word “awesome” in everyday speech, choosing to only apply that adjective to God Himself. In a life marked by story-telling, it’s ironic that the word that best defines him in my mind is the one he spoke with holy hesitancy. In the vein of that godly heritage, I’ll end this forward with the same admiration and concern my grandfather used to conclude his book:
Jesus is awesome. No one knows when their last chapter will be. The greatest way to honor the legacy of James Derrick Bouknight is to follow Christ today.