Dirty Laundry: Of Genealogies and Grace
I knew my family tree grew with less-than-reputable “limbs” when a search of the Canadian archives for a great grandfather revealed they had information on him in a file called, “Court Martials of the First World War.”
Or take this little gem of family history, from the “100 Years Ago Today” flashback section of the Dec. 6, 2010 edition of the Brantford Expositor: “Norman Windle, 19 years old, suspected of entering the residence of Mr. Frank Wilson, on Sunday afternoon, was allowed to go (without charges) in the police court this morning. The young man’s home environment was taken into consideration.”
Seriously, I can go back four generations to find stories of my great-great-great-great grandfather who lived for his craving of liquor and was caught by his son trying to put his daughter-in-law on a hot stove because she refused to give him money for a “bottle.”
I tell these few stories, not to air my family’s dirty laundry, but to make the point that I come from a long, and infamous line of angry, alcoholic people.
For a time, it seemed my fate was to grow up in a home similar to that of my dad, with an angry, alcoholic father. He was walking the same road his father had walked, until he met someone who changed his life.
In 1973, my dad met Jesus, had his sins forgiven and experienced God’s love. And the Windle family tree has never been the same. After my dad came to faith, Jesus worked his transforming power throughout my family over the next several years, with my mom, my grandma, and various relatives coming to Christ too. I remember praying for my grandfather’s salvation for years. One day, I came home to find my dad in tears on the telephone. I thought someone had died. When I asked my mom what was wrong she said, “Nothing dear, your Grandpa just became a Christian.” Years later at my grandfather’s funeral, it was said, “If you’ve come hear looking for the funeral of Jack Windle, that perfect husband and father, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you’ve come here looking for the funeral of Jack Windle, that angry, alcoholic man, you’re too late…Jesus got to him first.”
You see, this transformation meant that I was raised in a home that was so different than many Windle’s before me. My house was filled the love of both my earthly father and my heavenly Father.
The more I look at my family tree, the more I’m amazed by grace!
Grace…it’s God’s unmerited favour….his mercy and love and kindness, leading us to repentance and salvation. Unearned. Undeserved. Unimaginably beyond compare.
Grace… it’s a theme, like a drumbeat, echoing through the pages of Scripture:
“For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men . . .” (Titus 2:11)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8)
“[We] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24)
Grace…it’s what caused a former persecutor of Christians to use superlatives to describe it: abundant (Romans 5:17), surpassing (2 Cor. 9:14), glorious (Eph. 1:6), incomparably rich (Eph. 2:7).
Grace…it’s what caused a former slave trader to sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
Grace…it’s what causes this grateful Windle to stand in awe the incredible transformation in my family.
So yes, I did air some of my family’s dirty laundry, but I did so celebrating the fact that the grace of God has washed many of us filthy Windles clean.
For the Record:
Titus 3:4-7 – But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.