Changing Your Family Legacy
“Daddy, how did our immediate family become different from many in our extended family?” Several years ago, this was the question I asked my father. His answer was surprising.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
These words were given to the Israelites as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land. God had called them out of slavery, been with them through their wilderness wanderings, and now gave them instructions for their new life in the land flowing with milk and honey. As I think about God’s plans and purpose for these people, I am reminded that many of us are standing on the edge of our Promised Land wondering what our legacy is or will be one day. As with the Israelites, we all fall into one of three categories (or somewhere in between).
God has called you out of spiritual slavery.
This is the beginning point for anyone who wants to live a life of faith and pass that legacy to the next generation. This category describes the woman who is a Christ follower, however, she did not learn to love and serve Jesus through her parents’ example. She wants to pass on the legacy of faith to her children, but she looks at her family’s past and wonders if it is possible. She knows God can and does redeem, but she wonders if He can redeem the brokenness of her own past.
Recently, I had a conversation with such a woman. If you were to meet her, you would immediately assume that she was trained by devout Christian parents and came from a long heritage of faithful examples. But, her childhood was far from ideal. My friend became a Christian because of her friends’ example, and she eventually begged her mother to take her to church. As a teenager, God began to give her a hunger and thirst for His Word, and she decided that she would raise her children differently. Though she was grateful for her mother’s example of perseverance and her father’s hardworking character, she wanted her children to have a different legacy. She wanted them to have a legacy of faith. Now that she is married with her own children, I can attest that she is seeking to live out before her children the type of relationship with Christ that she prays one day they will accept. Since she did not have a positive example of Christian parenting, she daily seeks the Father for how He would want her and her husband to train their children. She also seeks out godly mentors who encourage her when she hits a difficult point in her marriage or her parenting. She is determined, with God’s grace, to raise her children to know and serve God. God has called her out of slavery, and she is passing on a legacy of faith.
Some have a legacy that is best described as a Wilderness Wandering.
This characterizes the individual whose parents are Christians, but they were clueless on how to pass on a legacy of faith. Before the Israelites left Egypt, they knew God was calling them to a land flowing with milk and honey. However, they were not sure how to get there. Numbers 13 records the story of Moses sending twelve spies into the Promised Land. Upon returning to camp, all the spies agreed the new land was indeed a wonderful land and full of opportunity. However, it was filled with giants, who were impossible to overcome. They had forgotten all the amazing wonders that God had performed on their behalf. Yet, within the crowd stood two men who were convinced of God’s promises and reminded the Israelites of those promises. They were Caleb and Joshua. I love the example of these men. They were born in slavery, but they knew they did not have to stay in slavery. They trusted that God had saved them for more than they could imagine. God had something great for them, but for a season, they had to wander in the wilderness.
This is my parents’ story. My father’s parents (my grandparents) were both Christians, but they were more concerned with earthly pursuits instead of passing on a legacy of faith. My mother came from a family whose mother was raised in a Catholic boarding school and whose father is still not a Christian. All four of my grandparents were (are) great individuals, and they helped my parents understand the importance of having a work ethic, integrity, and loyalty. But, there was always something missing. When my sister was two-years old and my mother was pregnant with me, God impressed upon my father’s heart the importance of leaving behind a legacy of faith that went beyond just taking his children to church. At first, that is all he knew to do. So we went to church…A LOT!! My siblings and I were at the church every time the door was open. As we entered the Jr. High and High school years, my dad tried to establish a time for family worship (we fought him on this issue), and he used his vacation days to drive the youth group to camp. My parents fumbled through the spiritual wilderness praying that we would somehow grasp the understanding that there was a Promised Land of faith waiting for us to discover. I am thankful and blessed that my parents broke out of the trap of cultural Christianity and modeled to us a relationship with Christ.
Some of us are blessed to live in the Land flowing with milk and honey.
This describes the person who enjoys a legacy of faith that was passed down to them by their parents and/or grandparents. They understand the importance of holiness and righteousness because their parents trained them in God’s Word. Discipling their children comes naturally (or at least easier) because discipleship was modeled to them. Some can even look at their lineage and see a spiritual heritage extending to their great great-grandparents. Though they may go through a season of spiritual wandering, they have tasted and seen the Promised Land and know God’s faithfulness.
Praise God, this is my story. In many ways, my parents did the hard work for me. Now that I am a mother, I want nothing more than for my children to see God’s patient love through the way I interact with them. Of course, I want my children to be good students and responsible citizens, but more than anything I want them to love and serve God. My husband and I realize that we cannot control our children’s decision to follow Christ. However, our prayer is that we would model to our girls a passionate pursuit of Christ. God has given us the responsibility to pass to them a legacy of faith, and our prayer is one day they would pass it to their children.
I am not sure what season you are in right now. If you are the first Christian in your immediate family, I am excited that you have begun a legacy of faith! Surround yourself with women who can disciple you and help you become the type of friend, wife, or mother God desires. If you come from a family who wandered in the wilderness of cultural Christianity, my prayer is that you would allow God to strengthen your faith and dependence upon Him. Dear sister, keep walking! God has great things in store for you. If you come from a long (or short) heritage of faith, grab a sister who is struggling and help her discover how she can continue to walk in faith. So, how did my family become different from many in our extended family?
One faithful step after another.