On Monday, Jan. 27, my grandfather, Jesse W. Owens, turned 102 years old. Yes, that’s right, 102 years old.
During the weekend before his birthday, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren came from all over the country to celebrate with him. We played games, gave him gifts, ate great food and sat around him as we listened to him talk, sing and play his guitar.
As time went on, it became apparent that my grandfather is a walking and living example of God’s word.
God commanded us to, “Honor thy father and mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God give thee.” My grandfather honored his father and mother all the days of their lives. He obeyed his father when at the age of 12, his father told him to quit school and go work to help provided for the family. My grandfather’s first job was plowing fields behind a mule. He would plow fields from sunup to sundown for 25 cents a day. He would later plant seed and harvest crops in some of those same fields for 25 cents per day.
My grandfather’s main responsibility for his father’s family was to help put food on the table. My grandfather often tells us that his family didn’t have a lot but they never went hungry even though there was no such thing as food stamps, WIC, or food banks back then. He would often tell the males of his family, “If a man don’t work, he shouldn’t eat.”
Jesse Owens is the patriarch of our family who has had a hand in the training of all the children. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he his old, he will not depart from it.” I was raised by my grandfather and the first time I saw a grown man get down on his knees to pray, it was my grandfather, who did so every night. And even now, at the age of 102, he still gets on his knees to pray every night. The first time I ever saw a grown man read and talk about the Bible, it was my grandfather and a day does not go by without him quoting and talking about the Word of God.
It was my grandfather who implemented a new Sunday morning ritual when I moved in with him at the age of 6. Every Sunday morning, as he and my grandmother sat at the kitchen table, he made it my responsibility to pray, read a passage of scripture, and then explain it to them. I have at times, strayed from doing things the right way, but because of my grandfather’s training, I cannot depart from the ways of the Lord, now that I am old.
Every male is not a patriarch just because he has children, grandchildren or great grandchildren. The Bible, and even Webster, declares that a patriarch is a man who rules his family the right way. Every patriarch must meet the criteria established by God when he selected Abraham to be the patriarch of the Jews. God said this about Abraham in Genesis 18:19, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.”
Moses stated in Psalm 90, that every man is normally given 70 years of life, and if by strength, he may have 80 years of life. In essence, anyone over the age of 70 does so by the grace and favor of God. So today, when anyone looks at my grandfather, I simply say what I heard a great preacher say, “Look at God, look at God.”