Friends and visitors who visit our house often say that the house and the numerous shrubs and flowers should be in a magazine. I have an eye for garden design and have enjoyed it immensely. Now I can only ride around in my electric wheelchair and admire my wife, Ruth’s, efforts in planting, weeding, fertilizing and watering.
Beautiful gardens don’t come in a box and they don’t suddenly appear overnight. Each shrub, each flowering plant, each tree are specifically placed in locations where they will grow best and where they have the greatest visibility.
God is the Great Gardener. He handpicked the family lineage into which I was born. He placed me with a specific set of parents. He also nurtured me and developed me in that family garden for His purpose and for my good. I was born at a specific date and time, in a specific place, and within a family of His choosing.
After being diagnosed with ALS in January 2014 I took that as a cue to accomplish things I had put off for quite awhile.
I sat down and composed a personal letter to each of our children and grandchildren. I also explained my core theological beliefs for our grandchildren with the hope that it would help them make their way through the maze of conflicting opinions and belief systems prevalent in today’s Christian community.
I then turned my attention to my family tree, a project I began in the early 1980’s. I had very little information to start with. Ancestry.com and similar data bases were not yet in existence. After two trips to Germany and gathering information from my mother and extended family things began to come together. In August 2015 I completed The Wackes Family History, tracing our family line back to the early 1700’s in Suhl, Germany. And in September 2016 I completed a web site with that information.
Of primary interest to me was tracing my family’s spiritual heritage.
The only true legacy worth leaving to one’s progeny as he or she exits this earthly life is the Gospel of Christ, the Good News. Everything else is perishable and transitory. Jesus challenges us, as we think about how best to influence and shape our children and grandchildren, with his clear, to the point question: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26), and the Apostle Paul adds, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)
Who in our long line of forebearers passed on to us the Good News of Jesus and lived it out for our example? Who, if anyone, prayed for us long before we were born?
My great grandmother on my father’s side was born in Eisleben, Germany, Martin Luther’s birthplace. And my great grandfather’s ancestors in nearby Suhl, Germany were all Lutherans, were there when Suhl decided as a town to embrace the Protestant Reformation in 1524, and were there during the Thirty Years War when the town was burned to the ground in 1634 by marauding Croatian troops. Their faith was put to the test.
My great grandmother on my mother’s side was born in Wales in 1862 to a coal miner and his wife. He died in an underground gas explosion when she was six years of age. Three years before her birth a revival spread through the Welsh coal mining communities leaving few families untouched. 100,000 miners and their families were converted. She never attended school and could not read or write, but she knew many biblical stories and many hymns, probably acquired during her childhood, and probably impacted by the after-affects of that revival.
But it was my parents who had the greatest spiritual impact on my life. My father was a building contractor who stated that God was his senior partner, and therefore was given 51% of the profits prior to taxes. He never missed a Sunday in 25 years presenting Christ to prisoners in the Broward County jail. And my mother was right there by his side for 64 years prior to his death. It was my mother who prayed with me when I was six years old in Jacksonville. That’s when the story of Christ captured my young heart.
My ancestors all died from various ailments. One in a coal mine, another of influenza, one from infections following a leg amputation, one from a stroke, and some, as with my mother, her mother, and her mother’s mother before her, of old age.
I will likely die with ALS unless God heals me or some other incident or ailment ends my life.
It is not how one dies that matters, but whether or not death opens the doorway to heaven.
That is why I cling to the promises of God, among them the following:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in me, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. . . . God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor.5:1, 21)