Not long ago, my sister and brother-in-law asked me to serve as their son’s godmother. Over a series of text messages with the attendant abbreviations and emoticons, we discussed the responsibility of caring for my nephew’s physical, spiritual, and intellectual development.
I couldn’t help but smile over the idea of having such a serious conversation through the casual medium of text messages. Still, given the experiences my three siblings and I had with our godparents, it seemed appropriate. Our godmothers and godfathers were members of the church we attended, so their presence in our lives was as ordinary and frequent as a Sunday service at our church in Boulder, Colorado. At the same time, these remarkable Christian adults were deeply intentional about showing us special care.
My godmothers, whom we call Aunt Jewell and Grandma Innis, entered our lives as if they’d always been there. My mother describes the ease and care with which Aunt Jewell held me at Bible study when I was a newborn. “She held you like you were her own,” she always says when recounting the story. That convinced my parents that she was the godparent they’d been looking for. A few years later, during my sister’s dedication, Grandma Innis stepped forward, and, with the gentle authority of a seasoned church mother, said simply, “I am the grandmother.”
For my young parents, who’d moved across the country during their honeymoon, these women provided a deep sense of family and community. And rather than limiting their influence to only one child, they adopted all four of us. Now, as I think about becoming a godmother, I am challenged by their example as Christian women.
Both of these women are known as faithful church members who joyfully served our church with their gifts. For many years, Aunt Jewell was a deaconess and the superintendent of the Sunday school. During church, she and I sat together. Grandma Innis, who died in 2000, presided over the deaconess ministry from the second pew in the sanctuary. The highlight of the annual Christmas concert was always her performance of the calypso-rhythmed Christmas song, “Mary’s Boy Child.”
They modeled a hands-on role for godparenting that went far beyond simply standing up during baby dedications. Aunt Jewell opened her home to us for frequent sleepovers, and took us on countless hikes, fishing trips, rodeos, and other adventures, casually imparting life lessons and giving our parents a break. Grandma Innis went shopping with us for school supplies each year, and made sure my sister and I had the frilly Easter dresses and beautiful jewelry worn by young girls in her native Panama.
Both Aunt Jewell and Grandma Innis are known for their practical generosity. Aunt Jewell is always thinking of ways to serve people—tutoring young readers, thinking of innovative vacation Bible school and retreat ideas, prospecting new sites for the annual women’s gathering, and, in her sixties, starting a band called the “Prime Timers” that ministers to people in nursing homes. And before her death, there was a period where there were fewer than six degrees of separation existing between Grandma Innis and someone in Boulder she’d blessed in some way. They demonstrated how to love everyone—and to still make each person feel special as an individual. As mentors, teachers, and friends, they exemplify the high calling of participating in people’s lives as members of a Christ-centered community.
I’m so grateful for the example they’ve given me. And as I think about my walk of faith, I’m challenged now to think about the gift—and the serious calling—of participating in a child’s life in this way. I’m prayerfully asking God to shore up the weak places in my walk, and to make me like these faithful women, knowing that they asked him to make them more like his Son.