S. Peter Lewis: We were already six

By S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

Priorities. For a long time I had problems with those.

From toddler-hood to my mid-twenties, I was mostly aimless and wayward, my compass spinning wildly. If life’s straight path was bordered by briar patches and burrs were trouble, then I was the boy always running crooked through the thickest tangles wearing a sweater. Part of it was just growing up: trying to turn into what you’re already supposed to be while you’re still doing it. Except I did it poorly. I wandered in a dim blackness of my own devising and barely cared where the light switch was.

By 27, I had a lousy marriage, a small child, no real career, an ancient car, and a two-figure savings account — my life built on weak layers of bad decisions and selfishness was crumbling in the dark. Finally, the foundation rotted out and the world caved in.

But then God, as He does, from the depths of His great mercy, turned the light on and my young family crawled out from under the jagged wreckage.

I learned how to spell p-r-i-o-r-i-t-i-e-s, and little-by-little to choose them, and then to live by them. With outside help, our marriage healed. Our family grew. Purpose and direction and other good things came, one better decision at a time. Our new foundation, not of our own making, grew sure and firm. And the years flew past.

And so our restored family sat around the Thanksgiving table a couple of weeks ago: my wife, my son and his wife, my daughter, and me, passing the mashed potatoes and gently fighting over the cranberry sauce. The fireplace roared and the room glowed and the aroma of pie wafted about and the cats slept in curls on the couch. We were indeed so very thankful.

Between shovelfuls of stuffing, I remarked how much we were enjoying the huge TV that my son and his wife had given us for our 30th anniversary. “That's great!” my son said. “And oh, we have another gift for you, but we can’t give it to you until next July.” And then he looked at his beautiful wife and they gave each other winky little smiles. I knew instantly, but the news seemed to fly right past my wife and daughter. “So, did you get them a timeshare or something?” my daughter asked. And then I started to laugh. “What? What’s going on?” my wife said, her salad-laden fork arrested in midair. “Honey, just do the math,” I said. After a pause and several glances the forks dropped and chairs skidded back and a certain tummy was lovingly gazed upon and the room erupted in hugs and the cats leaped and fled.

Sometimes, it takes a certain palpable knowing before something becomes true, even if it was true all along. When we’d first sat around that thankful table, my priorities had already been rearranged, I just didn’t know it yet. And I would have told you there were five of us there, yet we were already a family of six. And I was no longer the man I thought I was.

Many years before, by circumstance and gracious Providence, my priorities had been fixed, my foundation reinforced, my roles redefined and reordered — and I’d written them down as a list in a journal: Christ follower, husband, father, friend.

A week after Thanksgiving, I searched my journals and found that old entry, and through softened eyes I penned a happy addendum in the left margin, adding one entry to my list. Just after father and just before friend I inserted one little word — Grandfather.

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