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Our time here on Earth seems to be a beginning-to-end type of ordeal, and one that always has our goals just out of reach. We plan, we strive, we devise, and we dream, but we never really seem to get there. Have you ever asked yourself why? Most of us have, and most of us still have yet to find a substantial answer. Could it be that we're all just asking the wrong question? Or perhaps the truth is, our idea of what the answer should be is completely amiss. Take a moment and think about something with me: What is your legacy?
"Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." - Proverbs 19:21
When I was younger I always thought of legacy as the tangible inheritances of wealth; property, money, and possessions. As I got older, the meaning of my legacy began to grow into the idea of the family business, and the continuation of the family name. From there it expanded to the genetic traits I admired in my father and grandfather, as well as our work ethic and religious beliefs. It wasn't until I had children of my own, that in a moment of clarity, I found the real answer to my question. Legacy is not what we give to our children, grandchildren, and loved ones after we pass; it's all about what we give to them right now while we're still alive.
"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." - 1 John 3:18
Do you ever stop and cherish certain characteristics of your parents, grandparents, or someone deeply influential in your life? Do you find yourself repeating or perpetuating that same wonderful trait? Maybe it's a Christmas tradition, or reading a bedtime story to your kids like your mom did when you were young. Maybe you find yourself in a leadership position, giving a subordinate grace the same way someone once gave you grace; or maybe you serve soup at a soup kitchen because you once stood run-down and worn-out, holding a plate on the other side of that counter. It comes in all shapes and sizes, but these parts of life are what a real legacy looks like.
"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:20-21
It's easy to get so caught up in the distractions of life that we lose sight of the actual legacy we are leaving behind. Names get erased, possessions deteriorate, land gets sold, money gets spent, and traditions break. But love? Love endures forever. If you've ever cast a stone into a pond, you know that the wake does not leave a single ripple; it projects many that eventually fill the entire surface of the pond. Love behaves the same way. The love that you invest today will carry through your children, and their children, and many generations from now, your lineage may be sitting there, admiring a certain characteristic of their parents, handed down from you all those years ago. It may look like patience, teaching your children a family recipe, or forgiveness and a gentle tongue when something gets broken. Perhaps it is a demonstration of kindness to others when kindness isn't exactly due.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
The more I pushed to discipline myself in what real love really looks like, the more I discovered it was going to be the only thing to break the bondage of harmful family habits, the ones that seem to never go away through the generations. The more I understood that love is the root of all growth and the substance of every desire to do better, it didn't take long for it to become the foundation of every decision I made. It was not only the birth of my joy, but the fluency of my family's joy also, no matter what circumstances surround us. Every last one of us has the ability to give this gift, even when we have nothing else to give, and that is because God's love has been so freely given to us. No matter where you're at in life, or what you're going through this very minute, it's never too late to choose love and to leave a legacy.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” - John 3:16
Husband, father, writer, poet. Two time combat veteran with a passion for homeless ministry.