The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!Galatians 5:22-23
Many, many years ago – threescore and ten to be precise – 23-year-old David Maul and 20-year-old Grace Kemp joined hands at the front of Rayleigh Baptist church and promised to make a home and a life together, and to love each other no matter what.
The year was 1952, and it was an audacious yet hope-filled project to launch for two young people who were raised during a World War in homes where they were taught to follow the Prince of Peace.
Grace – who was just eight when hostilities began – saw the destruction firsthand from her family’s East London home. Eleven-year-old David was sent up north to live with strangers, when his Southend school was evacuated en masse.
In the late 1940’s, after returning from military service in the Mediterranean, David attended a prayer meeting. There, my future dad heard my future mum pray out loud. “Who does that beautiful voice belong too?” he asked. And – in that moment – the whole future (including me) became possible.
A vision for a new world:
After their wedding, David and Grace packed up and moved to the beautiful seaside town of Folkestone in Kent, situated on the English Channel adjacent to the White Cliffs of Dover. Their vision was straightforward: Expand grandpa’s business to provide good jobs for ordinary people; raise a family; live their faith out loud.
My mum and dad had seen the world tear itself to pieces. Their mission now was to help knit it back together by living and by giving as Jesus taught them. “The Holy Spirit,” Galatians 5 teaches, “produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
As Jesus himself pointed out, in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The English seaside town of Folkestone became a different, better, place because my parents chose to live there, and to tell the truth about God’s love simply by living faithful lives.
They set that pattern, and because of their witness to life I found someone who was raised the same way and – together – Rebekah and I have continued to live the audacious belief that we can, and we will, make the kind of radical difference in this world God had in mind when we were called to follow.
Faithfulness is a generational gift:
I am not going to attempt to summarize the details of my parents’ lives. They have lived, after all, over 184 years between them!
What I am doing, however, is bearing witness to the trajectory of their initial commitment, 70 years ago today.
We could point to the photographs on their mantle and the piano, where the addition of Geoff and then me eventually multiplied to eventually include Rebekah, three grandchildren – Hannah, Andrew, and Naomi – and now nine great-grands.
Faithfulness, it turns out, is a generational gift.
A faithful marriage is not a progressive series of huge decisions and historic turning points, so much as it is the cumulative result of thousands – and hundreds of thousands – of small decisions rooted in kindness and constancy and love, sometimes innumerable times each and every day. That’s 25,572 days, if anyone was counting!
And so we are here, not in Rayleigh Essex any more, but Raleigh North Carolina. We are here because in this contentious, war-torn, broken world – where the prevailing message seems to be one of not bothering anymore to believe, of putting commitments to the side, and of shrugging shoulders when marriages fail and families are torn apart – we not only need to tell and to hear stories like my mum and dad’s, we must tell them… because the world must hear them… because the simple but powerful truth remains that love wins.
Take heart, I have overcome the world!
Which brings me back to the words of Jesus in John’s telling of the good news story: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
And there has been some trials and sorrows over the years! A world war. A cold war. Family tragedy. Anguish. Disappointment. Business pressures. Loss. Sickness. Homesickness. The uncertainties of old age.
But take heart! Take heart, because this quality of demonstration of faithfulness is something special to behold! It tells the story of promise, and patience, and peace, and mercy, and light, and goodness, and kindness, and love, and generosity, and redemption, and love, and grace, and Grace… and David too. And it gives the rest of us hope.
This is Christ’s message.
Love wins. – DEREK