Faith is a powerful seed
After marriage, life was hard for a few years. Actually, it was several years. I made a decision when my wife became pregnant with my first daughter, that my daughter(s) would benefit from a full time mother in their early years. We were both students. I decided (yes, unilaterally) that we would both stop school, boldly announcing "We have our entire lives to make money and acquire degrees. We only have one shot at raising a good daughter."
Our parents were mortified. Our friends chastised. But, my position was rock. I was completely unmovable. One day my mother called to tell me she was enrolling my wife in the local university and we were going to live rent free in one of her rental houses until she finished school. I just politely told her "that's a very generous offer."
When my mother protested that it wasn't an offer, but a plan that would happen. I just explained that we were adults and were going to make our own decisions, whatever the cost. I've never really regretted that, though today I realize how costly and stubborn a decision that was.
That investment has paid off in ways nobody could have imagined. But, those years were hard. We were desperately poor, and family often watched our struggles and some of the high price my unyielding independence charged to my wife's quality of life. She stretched every penny as well as she could. We were never hungry, the home was always well cared, and my daughters thrived.
During those years, I had cheer leaders, though I considered their emotional support quaint at times. I worked in door to door sales that first year of marriage, because after more than twenty job interviews I couldn't land a job that paid better than knocking doors. I quickly gained more than seventy pounds during our first year of marriage. It's reasonable to think the combination of the road warrior lifestyle and the stress of my lifestyle contributed to this shocking transformation, from someone who had previously been disciplined and even quite vain at times to a morbidly obese twenty-two year old man. Occasionally, my grandma would tell people "Jason used to decide he was a few pounds too heavy, and he would just stop eating until he lost those extra pounds. One day he'll decide to do it again."
I used to chuckle. No, that man had long since grown up and adjusted to the reality he could have never foreseen.
My grandma (Mom's mom) thought I was the most handsome, smartest, hardest working man that ever walked the planet. My grandpa (Dad's dad) thought that I was one of the most compassionate and kind people he knew. I think about them often, their faith in me, and wish they would have actually seen what I may become, empowered by their faith in me. I think about them, and it inspires me to try to be the man they thought I could be. Despite all my challenges, all the adversity, most created by my own bad decisions, I've always had good people who believed in me. Faith is a powerful seed.
My grandpa was reasonable. He always just told me how the smartest thing he ever did was give up farming (which he loved) and got a job. But, he never criticized any decision I made. My grandma, ever the consummate dreamer, would brag "One day you're ship's gonna come in. And, when it does we're all going to have a good time!"
At some point, I stopped believing that ship would ever come in. Life was, after all, hard. My failures racked up quicker than I could count. And, it beat me. But, my fan club never lost hope or faith. They just patiently loved me and longed to live to see their faith manifest. To them, I was already an amazing person. To me, my failures dimmed anything they could have seen in me.
Sometimes the seeds of faith take a long time to sprout. But, over the years, especially after their passing, I began to realize my better years were ahead of me and these beautiful people would miss out. Neither one of my grandparents lived to see my single highest honor and accomplishment to date. My elder daughter graduated from high school (in the top 20) and accepted a scholarship to the University of Alabama. I have her first letter that she was on the Dean's List.
My younger daughter joined band in eighth grade, years after her classmates started. I remember going to a beginner band recital and seeing her tower over the others. She was proudly standing in a group years younger than her, performing entry level band music, with absolutely no shame or hesitation. Most children would have been horrified by that experience. But, to her, it was simply the road she had to travel to get where she wanted to be. That dedication paid off. Even though she was late to the starting line, even though she suffered what most people would have thought humiliating subjection to underclass roles, she became an accomplished percussionist and will be the Cullman High School jazz vocalist next year.
Better than their accomplishments, my children are known to their friends and community as good people. There's something special about being a father of good people.
It's hard to top raising good children. I give credit to the Lord for giving me children with good spirits, strong before I ever worked to mold them. Their mother sacrificed a full scholarship to college, comfort, sleep, the lifestyle she deserved and expected. But, the payoff is huge. If I have no other life accomplishment, my children are already evidence of a blessed and fortunate life.
But, those seeds of faith that my loved ones planted in me continue to grow. Years after they've died, the words spoken by my grandparents will sprout and inspire me. How can a man stumble when cheered by the immortal? The older I am, the more I trust in their good judgment. I believe they knew a future I couldn't imagine. And, it inspires me to be viciously disciplined, unwavering, and seize the inheritance they so boldly proclaimed for me when I was a young man.
Faith is a powerful seed.