I stood in the Hallmark isle last week along with many of you, sifting through the row of Father’s Day cards trying to find the “right” one. Each card relayed messages about what dad means to us. In what ways he was there emotionally, or how much he provided for the family.
Recently I spoke with a friend who shared some feelings regarding his relationship with his father. He shared how his dad was a good provider. He always kept a roof over their heads and worked hard to give the family what they needed. However, he also shared that his dad was a case study description of a workaholic. His father’s focus and energy seemed to be constantly centered on what he would leave behind in his field of study. Whether or not his name would be remembered and esteemed by his colleagues. This imbalance left my friend feeling no real connection with his father. And unfortunately this primary feeling is the legacy his father has left him.
You see, we will all leave behind a legacy, whether or not we realize it. Whether we have kids or not. Whether we have two friends or two hundred. Because unless we live in a cave on the side of a mountain, there are people in our lives, and we are in theirs. And how we spend our time and energy matters as to what legacy we leave with them. Legacy is not just a piece of paper listing which asset goes to which person after we are gone. In fact, we are creating our legacy every day, with every interaction.
By definition, legacy comes in two packages. First, “a gift of property, as money, by will; a bequest.” And second, “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.” So yes, legacy can be passed down through possessions and money to those around us. However, we also pass on “anything.” Our outlooks, our attitudes, our words, our actions, and our love or lack thereof. What we say and do. How we choose to try to connect with those around us; these are the things we will leave with others. We are constantly bequeathing a piece of ourselves to them each day.
For instance, do you ever find yourself using those same hated lines on your kids that your parents used on you? Or perhaps you find that being around someone that critiques you, starts to leave you with a feeling that you are not quite good enough. My friend is being left a legacy of provision from his father, however he feels a sense of loss for the legacy that he truly craves.
Love. Not just the words, but the actions. I was reading in I John this morning and came across the verse that states “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” Does this mean that saying the words “I love you” to those around us isn’t valued? No, however this verse reminds us that stating words of love that are not backed up by actions of love are not truth. When my friend received money from his father, it was an action that could mean “I love you”, but without the relationship backing it up, the gift felt hollow.
How do we make those around us feel? Is our love also backed up with genuine actions and words of truth?