About the Author: Cheryl Bear

Cheryl Bear is from Nadleh Whut'en First Nation where she is currently serving as councillor. She is well known as an important and respected voice on behalf of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, an inspiring speaker who has traveled to over 600 Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States sharing her songs and stories. She is one of the founding board members of the North American Indigenous Institute of Theological Studies (NAIITS) and an Associate Professor at Regent College, in Vancouver, BC. Cheryl has an earned Doctorate from The King’s University in Los Angeles, and Master of Divinity degree from Regent College. Her doctoral work presents an approach to First Nations ministry from the foundations of indigenous worldview and values.

By |2017-12-29T13:15:47-04:00December 22nd, 2017|Advent and Christmas, Blog, Canadian Culture, Theological reflection|Comments Off on Grandfather

At a bible camp in 1978, I gave my heart to Jesus. It wasn’t because I learned how good he was or actually, anything about God. I just didn’t want to go to hell.

I was taught a hyper-Arminian view of God in those days. This view is summarized by this: if you sin and suddenly die, you will go straight to hell.

So my view of God then, was something akin to the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings. Which of course, is completely terrifying.

But I never liked the God of the other pendulum swing either, that Jesus is somehow my cosmic buddy, like that hippie version of God you can smoke a joint with. That just seems too floppy. Like God just doesn’t give a sh*t, about anything, let alone anybody.

Now, I’m not a perfect Calvinist, maybe a two-and-a-half tulip-er, at best. I can be found somewhere in the middle of the pendulum swing between Calvinism and Ar-mania. But I do firmly believe in this beautiful mystery; that somehow Creator has forgiven me for all sins, past, present and future.

The Indigenous view of God is spectacular and similar to the grace found in the last sentence. We can see who Creator is by the names from all across North America. The Gitx’san have the name, the Great Chief in the Sky, the Lakota; The Great Mystery, my Dakelh people, The Being Up on High; the Zuni, The One Who Started Everything, and many more names describing a Creator deserving the highest respect.

That highest respect bit is the kick. Respecting the Creator means we are careful how we treat others, creation, and is in fact a powerful guiding value.

Another Indigenous name for Creator is Grandfather. The first time I heard this name, I flinched, or maybe my old-school church-training flinched; God has no grandchildren after all.

But over the years I’ve reflected on this name.

For those of us blessed with a great dad, it is easy to imagine a great loving Creator Father. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sadly, some only experience grief, abuse or trauma from their dad, or an absent father.

The term Grandfather, or Grandmother, brings another image to mind. When I had my first son, I watched my Dad change. He went from a very good Dad, to an amazing Grandfather. In the book of Daniel, God is called the Ancient One. This one who has no beginning and end is certainly deserving of the name Ancient.

I remember when my kids were babies. I could tell the difference between their cries. I knew the sound of pain or sadness and it was a different cry than the temper tantrum cry on the floor at IKEA. And I would react appropriately.

A grandparent however, does not care what the cry is about. They will scoop up the child. Grandparents simply want their grandchild to be content and have everything they need. They obviously know when a punishment is deserved, but they are hesitant and far more patient because of this great love, full of undeserved grace. A grandfather and grandmother have an ancient love, a love that knows all, sees all, and loves so much more deeply than a parent.

That’s how God loves us.

That is the reason our Great Creator came to us in the form of a newborn, utterly dependent and defenceless; one who would learn our language and culture, worldview, values and ways. All because of love.

It is true that God has no grandchildren, because each of us must make our own decision to believe in God or not.

But perhaps during this Christmas time, imagine that Jesus was born a newborn baby who was, mysteriously at the same time, an ancient Grandfather.  

Imagine that Jesus was born a newborn baby who was, mysteriously at the same time, an ancient Grandfather Click To Tweet

photo: “Paul Otoko and Grandson from Chuuk”