by Jefferson David Tant
(Note: While going through some old documents, I came across this article which was written in 1990. It’s a bit nostalgic, but there are some good points worth considering even today.)
It was my turn to babysit while the others were busy. As long as I sang to him while we rocked, he was still and quiet. Thankfully, he is not a music critic as yet. From time to time he would open his eyes and give me a searching look as if wanting some reassurance that I was still there to protect and care for him.
As we rocked in the twilight, my mind went back to the moments when I rocked this baby’s father in the $15 oak rocker purchased in anticipation of our first-born in the little four-room house in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. How many years ago! Now that baby is a man, and the cycle repeats, as from the dawn of time.
I look into the little face, and the words of my song falter from my tears. What a precious gift God has sent, and what a great responsibility, as God has charged us to nurture our children in the “chastening and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). What a sobering thought to hold the future in my hands— this tiny baby that God made in his own image. And I think of my other grandchild, Shannon Emily, a bundle of energy and smiles, and marvel at her eagerness to learn — learn about life and God, “who made the world so big and round.”
It is certain that I appreciate the responsibilities of being a parent even more keenly than I did 30 years ago. Oh, I took it seriously then but age and experience give one a different perspective. As I have seen my own children grow, obey the gospel, and commit their lives to Christ, and as I have served other parents and their children, I have come to appreciate more fully God’s charge to “…give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, 'Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children' (Deuteronomy 4:9-10). The Lord goes on to encourage Israel to hear his words, “and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house … and walk by the way … and lie down …and rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
Is anything more important in all the world than preparing children for eternity? Is there anything more frightful to contemplate than the thought of this precious little soul standing before the judge of all the earth and hearing him say, “Depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)? And what if you, or I, as a parent or grandparent, had neglected our charge to teach this child God’s way? God is serious about this: “but whoso shall cause one of these little one…to stumble, it is profitable that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
We know that children turn away in spite of good parents and teaching, but what a burden many parents carry to the grave when they look back over the years that their children were young and still teachable. The parents were busy here and there, thinking there would be time for spiritual training later. Meanwhile, as a living is being made, a life was being lost. Maybe that's why God gave us grandparents — to add the wisdom of years to this task.
The cycle of life continues. As I write these lines, my thoughts go to my beloved friend, Harry Pickup, Sr., who went to his reward just a few days before little Jefferson Davis was born. He was in his 90th year. Brother Pickup was a friend of Davis’s great-great-grandfather, J. D. Tant, who laid his armor down nearly 50 years ago. Perhaps these two soldiers of the cross have met in heaven by now. I can see brother Pickup telling my grandfather stories about knowing me at Florida College, and about my work as a gospel preacher. Brother Pickup did not know about little Davis (J. D. Tant, IV), so we will have to wait for someone else to make the journey with that news. And it will happen, for that is a part of the world God has made. In his infinite wisdom, he made it so. And we have but a few precious years to prepare for the next generation for that long journey to eternity. Fathers, mothers, use the time well. Oh, use it well!