The Old Suitcase

Bill Brinkworth

To be better organized, I put all my Gospel magic in various cases. When I use the object lessons to preach or teach to children, I always lug the cases with me. One particular case is certainly well worn, old, and the ugliest of them all. Because of its sentimental value, I just cannot get myself to throw out the 60-year old small, two-toned, brown, leather suitcase. It reminds me well of whom I used to be.

Growing up, I had a very godly grandmother. She was my mother’s mother and she came to visit several times a year. Honestly, and shamefully, she was not my favorite of our two grandmothers. There was something different about her that made me uncomfortable. She was a Christian.

Shortly after her arrival, the little suitcase was opened, and she pulled out several copies of a Sunday school paper she had saved and gave them to me. She would then lug out her old, battered Bible. It would start out on the nightstand next to her bed, but after her next morning’s devotions, it would be left on a table in the living room, where she read it, and where its appearance would haunt and trouble me.

Every time she came, at least once her conversation turned to the things of God. Perhaps it was to correct something I had done wrong or maybe it was, “Did you read those papers? What did you think?” Her godly presence in our house, put an air of conviction on me. Things were not comfortable when she was there, even if she did not say anything about the Bible or religion. I now know I was not saved then, and that her godly life-style made me feel bad and guilty. Her presence brought tremendous conviction on me much of the time, without her having to say anything.

As I got older, after I got the polite welcomes out of the way, I made an effort to stay out of the house as much a possible when she was visiting. I also developed an attitude about her from something my father said. He roughly remarked, more than once, that she was “forcing her religion down our throats.” Good, Dad gave me another defense to keep me from having spiritual guiltiness: she was wrong; she was forcing her way of thinking on me. Still, her presence continued to make me uneasy. Things went back to normal when that brown, leather suitcase and her were out of the house.

All those remarks and advice she gave me somehow made it through the dark crevasses of my conscience, even though I tried to prevent her from invading it. For years, without even knowing I was being affected by her biblical influence, I felt guilty when I sinned. Her influence came to light on a particular Memorial Day parade.

I remember sitting on the steps of my rented home and watching the parade go by in Yardley, Pennsylvania. I recalled all the successes I had had already in my young life: I was married; I had property; I was the owner of a new truck; I had a young child. Everything seemed to be going so well. Then, I remembered thinking, “Grandmom was wrong. I did get away with sin!” Her persistence in trying to teach me God’s way had, unknowingly to me, still stayed with me.

One year later to the day, everything had changed. Almost everything I boasted of the previous year was gone: house, marriage, property. All gone! Then I realized, “Oh, no. I did not get away with anything. Grandmom was right! I didn’t get away with my sin.”

It was not long until I realized my way did not work. I was in desperate need of the right answers. It was then I started reading my Bible. In a short time, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins. The old book that I used to run away from when grandmom came was now the source of the solution to my life’s problems. I could not wait to get home from work to read more from the same book I had previously avoided much of my life.

As I read and learned more, my thinking and life began to change. The sinful things I used to do, lost their appeal, and one by one, dropped out of my life, or at least I worked on stopping them. Because, at that time, I was not in a good, Bible-believing church, and was not around strong Christians, I did not know what was happening to me.

I thought of calling grandmom. Surely, she would like to know about the changes in my life, and how I was reading my Bible; but I did not. Six months went by and I still had not called her. Then I got my mother’s telephone call. Grandmom had died and gone to heaven.

With guilt in my heart, I went to the funeral. People at the funeral told how wonderfully my grandmom had served the Lord. How she had led many to the Lord, taught Sunday school for most of her life, had knocked on doors to invite people to church, and even visited her students. It even turned out that after she led a person to the Lord, she wrote their name in a little book. People repeatedly requested to look into the little book. My grandmom had made quite a difference in many lives, including mine.

Then the preacher preached at the service. I have heard preaching much of my life, but his words were much different. I never heard anything like it in my life: such truth, such power, so interesting! Then he did an unusual thing. He said that my grandmother would want him to conclude her “going home service” with an invitation to invite any listening with an opportunity to be saved and have the same promise of heaven she had. After hearing the invitation, I finally realized what had happened to me; I had been saved. I learned right there at her funeral that I had done what God wanted me to do; I had trusted Christ as my Saviour. I was forgiven, and not forgotten by God.

It has been over 30 years since that funeral. Grandmom’s in heaven, and I have God’s promise that I too can go there and see her one day. All this happened because my grandmom cared about my soul. She did not quit her godly influence, just because I was not interested at the time. In the end her perseverance, daily prayers, and efforts to get me to be obedient to God, paid off. “Thanks, Grandmom, for not giving up.”

No, I do not think I will ever get rid of that old suitcase.


This article was featured in The Bible View #112.

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