The train called life takes its passengers on many twists and turns, making several stops before reaching its destination. At the first stop, there may be a baptism. At the second stop, a marriage. At the third and fourth, children and grandchildren. And so on.
The tracks may be smooth for one mile, and bumpy the next. The wind may blow, causing the train to sway. Or the sun may shine, casting beams of light down the car. Along the way, God’s love is the driving force. It propels the train toward each stop. It guides the train through the valleys and pushes it up the mountains.
As a 21-year-old, I’m still at the beginning of my voyage on the train of life. My journey has been mostly smooth, and I’ve faced few mountains. An analysis of God’s love throughout my journey would be incomplete – I haven’t experienced enough stages yet.
But my grandma has.
My grandma’s name is Jean. She grew up in a small town in southeast New Hampshire, and despite living in the Midwest for the past 55 years, she still carries the New England accent with her.
Her first introduction to God didn’t come from her home, but from her friends at school.
“You went to school with your friends. You hung out with them. You went to church with them. You did all that with them,” my grandma recalled.
A family that lived close to her offered her a ride to church every Sunday. Sunday School in her early childhood was the largest influence in beginning her relationship with God.
Growing up in a non-spiritual house, my grandma remembers saying her prayers by herself every night. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take,” she would recite.
When I asked her what stands out about those early experiences, she said, “I always knew that Jesus loved me.”
She distinctly remembers a wall in the church with a Bible verse painted on it. It read, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“It reinforced to me that no matter what was going on, I could rely on Jesus to be with me and He would stay with me and get me through it,” she said.
After my grandma and grandpa married and moved to Wisconsin, her church attendance slowed. My grandpa was a police officer and my grandma was a nurse, so they worked odd hours and struggled to find a church to call home.
My grandma said that in those early years of marriage, understanding Jesus’ love and His grace and mercy for us helped her be more patient when she and my grandpa disagreed. “Jesus taught me to be patient, to be loving, to be forgiving, even in times when it wasn’t easy,” she said. “I knew He was there for me if I needed Him.”
After about a year, they found a Methodist church that welcomed them. Before long, they had two children, my uncle and my mom.
“When your mom was little, it seemed like she’d go to nursery school and she’d catch a cold. And then I would catch her cold. So we wouldn’t go for a few weeks until we both recovered,” my grandma recalled about raising young children in church. “And then we’d go back and she’d catch another cold.”
My grandma taught her children to pray before bed every night, a prayer similar to the one she recited growing up. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Angels watch me through the night and wake me with the morning light.”
“I feel Jesus guided me to be a loving, patient mother – which can be hard at times,” she said.
When her parents passed, she experienced a constant awareness of God’s comforting presence. She reflected on her relationship with God, saying, “I think it gives you a calmness in times like that.”
On to the next generation
Seeing her kids raise their own kids was an exciting time for my grandma. She fondly recalled a moment about my mom and me on a family vacation in Upper Michigan.
“It was your first time in Michigan. You were one,” her story began. “One night, you were not sleeping well at all. Your mother had gotten up because you were crying and she didn’t want you to wake everyone else up. She took you out and sat with you on the couch, and I could hear your mother singing ‘Jesus loves me’ to you.”
Seeing her daughter reflect Jesus’ love to her grandchild in that moment filled my grandma with joy.
In 2012, my grandma experienced an internal bleeding health scare, and she almost lost her life. She remembered, “I knew my life was in danger. But yet, I was not worried or concerned, just very calm through it. And I’m sure that Jesus was with me and got me through that.”
The next stage of life I asked her about was when my grandpa died in 2018, just two weeks after I began my first year of college. For Labor Day weekend, I decided to surprise my family by making the eight-hour journey home for a couple days. I was able to talk to my grandpa before his condition worsened and he passed a few days later. “I felt, for sure, that the Lord told you to come home,” she said.
Reflecting on that time of heartbreak, my grandma recalled, “Jesus kept me calm. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I relied on Jesus to get me through. He helped me take one day at a time, which is what I still do.”
Between when my grandpa passed and COVID-19 struck, my grandma attended my family’s Seventh-day Adventist church every Sabbath, while still attending her Methodist church on Sunday.
After we had talked for almost an hour, I asked my grandma the big question: “Do you feel like how you appreciate Jesus’ love has changed over time?”
“No,” she replied simply. “He has always been with me and He will always be with me.”
I expected my grandma to tell me some revelation about God’s love that only someone who has experienced as much life as she has could know. I expected her to tell me all the ways in which God’s love has shattered barriers. In truth, God’s love doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, it’s just a constant guiding hand on the train of life. God’s love doesn’t have to be ground-breaking and mountain-moving for it to be powerfully relevant on our journey.
Hannah Drewieck is a junior business administration and communication major from Stoughton, Wisconsin.