Inheritance and Legacy

Over Thanksgiving weekend I was talking with my husband’s uncle and aunt about legacy. He was feeling kind of distraught that within three generations, our existence would be as vapor, as Paul describes it.

He was lamenting that his children and grandchildren don’t know about the great people that his parents, grandparents, and even older predecessors were and this got him thinking about providing them with a way to get to know more about their legacy.

I found it interesting that, more than his own accomplishments, he wanted his children to understand and appreciate the accomplishments of his predecessors. All of them great people, many of them were founding fathers of our nation. Many of them sacrificing every comfort to live in a place where they were able to live according to the dictates of their own conscience. All of them understandood that the hope of religious freedom was more important than the comforts they enjoyed in their homeland and with their people.

He lamented the loss of this priceless heritage through the years and is looking for ways to teach his adult children and grandchildren so they can find strength and identity in this world of confusion.

He wants them to have strong values amidst the clouds of false ideas and entitlements settling on the people. It’s so easy to lose our identity and foundation when everything we see and hear contradicts the very truths these people came to this country for.

While we were talking, I admitted that I’d been thinking about the same thing as I pondered something I’d recently readin in 1 Peter 1:24. He says, “for all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower therof falleth away.” I hadn’t connected the thought to my own legacy as I’d been pondering it. I’d mostly been thinking about how temporary life was and how easy it can be to get caught up in the moment and forget how short it really is. How easy it is to set our hearts upon our glories and waste precious time holding them up, even as they fade and lose their beauty, like flowers. While talking to them I realized that it really is about more than the time though.

The time we’re alive is given to us to produce, just like blades of grass and flowers, we’re meant to fill the measure of our creation while we live. We’re meant to create, reproduce, and live the best we can. We may be gone tomorrow, but to the seeds we left behind, it was important that we lived. It was important that we produced and gave and created so that they now exist.

Over the years my husband and I have thought about leaving our children a Legacy that will bless them and enrich their lives and the lives of those they care for. We’ve thought about it in the form of inheritance. What do we want our kids to inherit from us?

You might be like most people and think of inheritance in terms of money or land left behind, but my husband and I have learned to think of inheritance and legacy as so much more.

We’ve learned that the legacy or inheritance we want to leave our children will serve them regardless of their financial circumstances. Money is great and a lot of good can be done with it, but it will not travel to the next life with them like strong character, hard work ethic, love of learning and growth, love of God and mankind, and the desire to serve and to impact the world for good.

Erroneously we’ve thought that the inheritance we leave our children will come to them when we die but in truth, the most important inheritance they receive is always with them. Regardless of the quality of inheritance, our example, is their ultimate inheritance. Yeah, our assets will transfer when we leave them for a better life, but we’re hoping that by then, they’ll have inherited the character and moral courage to be able to do good with the temporal goods we leave.

We hope even more that the inheritance we are giving them daily in the form of example, one diligent act at a time, will allow them to leave an inheritance with their friends, neighbors, children, spouses, and that they’ll shower this legacy upon those they meet.

This comes down then to the quality of our example. I’m learning that our individual choices literally build this daily legacy in our children. Our examples and experiences being the model they look to when creating their own lives. Our teachings being the foundation from which they jump when they have the desire to help a friend or want to communicate with God. This is very humbling to me.

Humbling for a few reasons, some of the reasons for me, are that sometimes I’m not leaving a great inheritance for my children because I’m being a poor example. Sometimes I lose sight of my priorities which can cause them to lose theirs, and probably most humbling to me is that the Lord is perfect and he sent us these perfect spotless souls and entrusts us with the sacred responsibility of teaching them all we can and yet, we are so… so… so… flawed and ignorant. I could fill an entire library with how much I don’t know.

As I’ve thought about it more, I’ve learned a few things.

One thing I’ve learned is that it really doesn’t matter what I don’t know. What matters is one important truth that I do know.

I do know that God knows everything and that he wants me to know everything I need to know. I have access to the knowing of all things that I really need to know. The plan is for me to not know everything and to figure out what I need to know as I need to know it by going to the source of all knowledge. Phew! This brings me immense comfort and gratitude for my testimony of God.

I’ve also realized that the legacy we want to leave, a really good one, really isn’t about us. Well, it is in one way, in that we’re the examples for our specific people in our sphere of influence, but it isn’t in any other way. It’s really a legacy of righteousness founded upon God. Jesus Christ even said that he did all things so that we would be able to know God. His legacy wasn’t about him, it was about us coming to know God through him so that we could become like him.

I believe that that’s what my uncle was trying to convey. He wants his posterity to know their ancestors so that they would know God better. Sure they’d know the people they came from more, which is fun, like Aunt Molly made her own soaps and lotions, and Uncle Jim was the fastest log cutter in the homestead, or his great, great Grandpa buried three children and his wife while crossing the plains. Fundamentally though, he wants them to have a strong foundation, a rock to build their lives on. These people all looked to God, their identity was in Christ, just as his is and I think he wants his kids to understand the source of their strength. These people who lived their lives fully, gave all for the cause of Christ. These people honored God and became honorable people, worthy of remembering, worthy of knowing.

To them though, they probably just felt like they were doing what they had to do, just like you and me. Their beliefs and values were so strong that they saw no other choice than to fight for freedom or relocate for liberty, safety, peace, and worship in their own way. This meant sacrifice, this meant trial, but to them, that was just part of living a good life. We too have suffered, sacrificed, and toiled on behalf of our beliefs, whatever they are. Hopefully, we’ve learned that everything goes better when God is our North Star, and our sufferings, sacrifices, toils, and sorrows won’t be for naught. Hopefully they’ll teach us and our posterity that it’s worth it to live for God and that on that foundation, we can build a life worth remembering.

That’s all I want for my posterity. My life may be as vapor but if that vapor fuels another generation or two of honorable people, who look to God, that’s ok with me.

I don’t need to be remembered throughout all time on this Earth. I know God knows me and I’ll gladly give up my worldly influence to point my well-meaning Christian life to Christ who will then point all his glory to God.

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