Identity - Blog

How My Grandparents Taught Me to Love by Faith

Jess Miller
Side profile of a granddaughter pushing her grandmother on a swing


Who has inspired you to love by faith? How has it changed your life?

For many reasons I have inherited an unlikely legacy.

My family is a mix of races and ethnicities brought together from three continents through generations of adoption and marriage.

As a Korean-born girl adopted into an American family in the Midwest, I often struggled to find my place between worlds. I landed in the blank hyphenated space between Asian and American, thoroughly one, but seen as another. Over the years, my sense of belonging has been drawn significantly from my grandparents’ belief in the diversity and depth of the body of Christ. 

My father’s parents led textured lives that, in retrospect, seem larger than life. I had the pleasure of knowing them best in their mellowed and observant later years, when memories are warmer and edges softer. The story of their lives came to me over Frosted Flakes for breakfast on a sunny Denver porch, in dusty trunks of old letters and trinkets, and the interrupted telling of tales as each attempted to tell it right.

My grandmother was raised by a single mother with her brothers in Ohio. Later, during the Depression, she ventured to southern Virginia to teach, and married my grandfather, a man whose Virginia roots are centuries old and include a Confederate general. It’s a complex history of land and slaves, war and loss, faith and reconciliation.

During the segregation years in southern Virginia, my grandfather’s business was completely open to all customers regardless of race. He hired local Black tradesmen rather than seeking white tradesmen from neighboring towns. An invitation to join the all-white country club was declined, despite the boost it could have brought to his business.

Eventually my grandparents left Virginia, but their lives were set in a pattern of loving by faith. For them it was a natural extension of their journey to a deeper and more personal faith in Jesus Christ. The result was a genuinely open life that shaped their family for generations to come.

The richness of this legacy has deepened as I’ve matured and come to a place where I can see how boldly and courageously they lived. From them I’ve taken three key things with me:    

  1. Surrender.

    The ability to see someone as deserving dignity and respect simply because they are created in God’s image and loved by Him first can only come from God, and it grows from a humble submission to God’s will and plan. In surrender we admit we cannot will our heart to be more compassionate or force connections. Instead, we make room for God to provide the grace necessary to love beyond our capacity.

  2. Initiative.

    I tend to linger in comfortable places until I know my next move will be successful, but loving by faith requires moving forward without an expectation of acceptance or reciprocation. Success isn’t guaranteed, but the satisfaction of knowing I’m faithful has propelled me to walk across a room and strike up a conversation, advocate for someone who needs to be heard and seen, speak truth when silence abounds, and seek grace to receive people as they are.

  3. Humility.

    Loving by faith is not a single act. It cannot be done once and considered accomplished; rather it is an ongoing work to bring restoration and holiness to a broken and discordant world. I saw in my grandparents’ lives patterns and habits that ensured loving by faith became an extension of themselves, something both natural and consistent wherever they lived.

Who in your life has taught you what it means to love by faith?

About the Author: Jess Miller serves at the  World Headquarters of Cru at Lake Hart. She and her husband, Mike, worked with Valor™, a ministry for ROTC cadets, at Virginia Tech for seven years before moving their family to Orlando, Florida, in 2016. In her free time, Jess enjoys reading biographies, baking bread and running so she can justify baking more bread.

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