Posted in Character, Faith

Grandma Chin and the Secret of Her Strength

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Rose Lee Chin is my hero. When I think of someone who epitomizes strength and unwavering commitment to family, her example rises to the top. A woman less than five feet tall, she made up for her stature in fierce determination.

My grandmother on my father’s side, Grandma Chin emigrated from China to Canada as a teenager in order to wed a man she had never met. They built a life together, had 14 children, and owned a restaurant as the only Chinese family in a small Caucasian town. You can imagine some of the hardships and challenges they faced. It is said that Grandfather Chin enjoyed gambling. Grandma Chin was known for disrupting card games played in the restaurant basement and sending all the men home.

When my father (the youngest) was eight years old, Grandfather Chin died of a stroke. I don’t know many of the details, but Grandma Chin held the family together. Every child was raised and launched successfully into adulthood. Family was central in their lives.

I remember as a young girl, shortly after my parents’ divorce. Grandma Chin asked with sorrow, “Why did your mother leave your father?”

I repeated the explanation I had heard many times before. “Because she didn’t love him anymore.”

Grandma Chin shook her head vigorously and shot back, “What does love have to do with it? It’s family.” Seeing my confusion, she continued with conviction. “I didn’t know your grandfather loved me until the end of his life.”

I knew that Grandfather Chin was unable to speak after his stroke, so I asked timidly, “How did he tell you?”

She fell silent as if she were revisiting that special moment, and then tenderly whispered. “I could see it…I could see it in his eyes.”

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“What does love have to do with it?” Grandma Chin’s words had a profound impact on me. Her words provided the knowledge that there was something more than love, so erratic and easily lost. Her words planted the foundation of commitment deep within me. Her life demonstrated the power of commitment to keep a family together. This commitment was greater than the feelings of love. It sustained her through 30 years of marriage.

Later, when I became a Christ follower, I came to understand that true love—the God kind of love—is expressed as commitment.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NLT).

Lovey-dovey feelings come and go. Parental tenderness felt for one’s children wears thin sometimes. Every relationship that matters will go through desert experiences. During those seasons, it is commitment that carries us through.

I also came to understand that being obedient to God’s call must go beyond feelings. It is commitment that gives the will to be faithful on the job. It is commitment that continues to strive toward reaching a goal even when it gets difficult. It is commitment that serves and cares for others when they do not deserve it.

I am not suggesting that we live like a bunch of non-feeling robots. I am also not condoning that people stay in abusive relationships. Nevertheless, when we commit our lives to the Lord, we no longer live only for ourselves. We must not base our choices on emotions or our own personal happiness.

Commitment helps us stay the course when it gets tough. Commitment helps us persevere for the good of others. Commitment helps us practice sacrifice to glorify God.

And when we no longer have strength to carry on, the Holy Spirit empowers us to do what we cannot do on our own.

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).

I am so grateful that Grandma Chin shared the secret of her strength with me forty years ago. Today her words still inspire me to demonstrate God’s love through commitment. What about you?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I confess that it’s easy to pay attention to my feelings. There are times I want to give up. Empower me to keep loving and serving others when it is difficult. Strengthen me to commit to the relationships in my life, and to persevere with the tasks you have set before me. Help me live a life of true love and commitment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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