I was ten the first time I saw my grandfather cry. A business man, and a purchasing agent, I knew my grandfather loved us because of the way he provided so generously for us, by the way he patted us on the back and said “Oh, that’s okay” when his grandchildren would thank him for the ice cream, the presents, the dinners out.
It was my grandmother who emoted. She got excited and delighted and clapped her hands when we came to visit, or when we preformed our talents for her. She got teary and disappointed when we had to go home, even if we had been visiting for two weeks. She choked up often and with ease.
But not my grandfather, the only emotion I can really remember from him in my early days is anger. (Mostly, as a result of one of us being disrespectful to my grandmother.)
When I was ten, my grandparents were visiting. I came home from school and the TV was on. It was Oprah, in her four o’clock syndicated hour, and my grandfather sat alone in the living room, tears wet against his cheeks. I don’t know what was on the TV, I don’t know why it touched his heart, I don’t even know if he saw me seeing him. But I will never forget the first time I saw my grandfather cry.
It certainly wasn’t the last. I remember him choking up while praying for my cousin who was not celebrating Christmas with us, but stationed in Bosnia. I remember him crying at my cousins funeral. A half-dozen times maybe, I remember grandpa crying, or almost crying. And mostly those moments were in gratitude. To God, for his family.
But that first time, that first time I often cite as proof that the Holy Spirit continues to change us, that the spirit works in us our entire lives. As my grandfather retired, and then retired for real, he started teaching a men’s Bible study at his church. Or maybe he always did, and I had just never noticed before.
I did notice the tears, the softening of his heart. I noticed the way he yelled just a little less. I noticed the way he approached the world with a softer step. And I immediately recognized it as a work of the Holy Spirit. Apparently God still changed people, even when they got old. Even when they were godly before. It was proof to me that the Spirit is real and always, always working.
I see the Spirit working in a lot of people lately, and I hope the Spirit is working in me too. But I am strangely aware, that if the spirit is working in my own heart, it means there is much work to be done. It means I am wrong, a lot. It means the people I love are wrong sometimes too. And it means there is space and grace for that.
Because I didn’t see my grandfather cry until I was ten. And it was proof to me, that the spirit moves.