You Shall Conceive and Bear a (Grand) Child


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My daughter is having a baby which means that I am having a grandchild.

Grandparenthood is once removed. This is a birth you did not conceive. You did not have any choice in this matter. Often parents have to “try” to have a child. They decide that now is a good time to allow it to happen. Not so with grandparents. This child comes when it comes. You can nudge your kids and suggest it’s time for them to deliver you with a grandchild, but this only delays things. All you can do is wait.

For this reason, when the announcement comes to a grandparent—a baby is on the way—it comes as pure gift and joy. For parents who had to try for months or years to conceive (or to convince a reluctant spouse or partner to agree to this effort), the good news arrives as “success.” We did it!  It worked!

Grandparents don’t feel this way at all. It’s simply a gift. I think this is why grandparents struggle to tell you why being a grandparent is so incredibly good. What pierces their hearts is the beauty and treasure of a life that simply appears, lands in your lap. If we had the wisdom, we would feel this way when we became parents—no matter how hard we had “tried” to make this happen—because of course every conception is an astonishment and every birth a marvel, not of your doing. But usually there is too much chaos and adrenaline and how are we going to take care of this thing and still make it to work? That fever of life is mostly over by the time we become grandparents, and the sense of pure gift can overtake us.

Perhaps this explains why Advent means something different to me this year. Over the years in this season I have written and preached and counseled about “waiting,” and “preparing an inner space” to receive this divine life. I have repeated those Marian words, “let it be.” But actually there was a lot of chaos and adrenaline and how am I going to get my shopping done and make the miracle happen for thousands on Christmas Eve? I think I mostly missed the advent.

There’s still plenty of chaos these days, and Christmas sermons still come only after hard labor, in fits and starts through sleepless nights. But now, amid all the bright turmoil, there is a quieter sense of grace. This forming child—a boy, I know—is coming. I did nothing to make him happen, and I have no control over his arrival. Yet he will change my life.

9 Responses to You Shall Conceive and Bear a (Grand) Child
  1. Matt
    December 2, 2014 | 9:55 am

    I think you said in your book, “Losing Your Faith, Finding Your Soul” that kids and grandparents get along so well because they share a common enemy…that always makes me laugh. He will change your life and you will change his…both for the better.

  2. Karen Dewar
    December 2, 2014 | 10:24 am

    Well said, David. And right on the nose.

  3. Elizabeth Ohlson
    December 2, 2014 | 11:15 am

    This is beside your point, but you really had plenty to do with it. Because of choices you made (a couple of decades ago?) you now have a child having a child, something like ripples in the water when you toss in a stone.

    • David Anderson
      December 3, 2014 | 9:40 am

      Yes, Elizabeth–I was thinking as I wrote this that, of course, I did have something to do with this birth. Pam and I brought Maggy to birth. But as I said in the second sentence, “Grandparenthood is once removed.” So in that sense it feels less and less like you had anything to do with it. Michael’s comments–about the mystery of causation says this better.

  4. Johnna
    December 2, 2014 | 3:03 pm

    Congratulations on your soon to be family member! May the waiting time be peaceful and joyful – an advent of greater length that Advent!

  5. Michael Anderson
    December 2, 2014 | 10:26 pm

    Yes, I agree with Elizabeth, you had a great deal to do with this. And nothing. But such is the mystery. Of Causation. Of Life. Let’s see what mysteries this little boy will bring.

  6. Sandy Oldfield
    December 3, 2014 | 1:31 am

    I am so excited for you and Pam to experience the astonishing, piercing joy that comes with the advent of grandchildren. There is simply nothing like it. And, as always, delighted to see what lessons you derive from it and share with us. Have a blessed Christmas and a joyous new year!

  7. Ginny
    December 3, 2014 | 10:37 pm

    You two will be walking on air. Could not happen to a greater couple!

    God Bless all of you,

  8. Gloria Hayes
    December 19, 2014 | 6:15 am

    Word of warning David. Grandchildren are time stealers. All you want to do is be with them. It is the greatest joy. Gloria

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