Our financial planner laughed. ‘No’, he said, ‘You’re not going to be able to pay for your children’s college tuition. Not on your salary’. As we ran the numbers, it became apparent that providing for our retirement was going to be an act of faith, let alone achieving our hope of providing a substantial inheritance for our kids.
As reality set in, I felt discouraged. But as I thought about it, I began to realize that even if I couldn’t leave our children a large inheritance, I could still give them something much better.
A rich legacy of faith in Christ.
More than anything else, our day-to-day relationship with Christ and how that plays out practically in our relationships is what will live on long after we’re gone. Although it can’t be seen or touched, this is our true and deepest legacy.
At the same time, because so much of our relationship with God is personal, even the people who are closest to us may not really know what that relationship looked like.
At a funeral for his father recently, a friend shared some reflections that his dad had scribbled down in his bible. I could tell how much it meant to him to have a permanent record of his father’s most important Relationship. These are lessons and insights he’ll always treasure.
As the New Year began, I decided it was time to begin something I could leave behind for my own kids. Something they – and maybe even their kids – will have after my time here is done.
So, I purchased a nice leather ‘journaling’ bible (pictured above) with wide, 2″ margins. Each morning as I do my devotions, I try to write down a few personal reflections, something that will give my kids a window into what my walk with God looks like. (As a bonus, it encourages me to be faithful in spending time with God!)
Since I have four kids, I’ll do one each year for the next four years so that each one has something from me. If in time God gives me grandchildren, I hope to do something similar for them, too.
Leaving Your Own Legacy
OK, let’s talk about you and something you can leave behind. As I reflected on my experience, here are some principles that could be adapted to your unique situation.
- The main thing. What you leave behind is designed to be a reminder, a token, of your walk with God. That walk doesn’t have to be perfect, of course, but if it isn’t real then anything we leave behind will feel hypocritical and lose its value.
- Something physical. This is implied, but it should be physical, something that can be seen and touched.
- Something of value. It may not be possible for everyone, but ideally choose something that’s nice. A real leather bible or prayer journal, for example.
- Something that will last. Things that are valuable also tend to last. To serve its purpose, it has to endure. Bonded leather or bindings that aren’t sewn, for example, are bound to fall apart. (Pun intended).
- Something associated with you. Whatever you select will have more value if your kids associate it with you. So most mornings, I use my bible in the living room where they can see me marking it up as they get ready for school. I also want them to know that spending time with God is a priority for me. Although it’s less efficient, I’m willing to make that trade-off. (If your kids are really young, you’ll probably need to do at least some of your devotional time when they’re not around. You can set an example, though, in just a few minutes. It’s about the consistency).
- Make it real. The goal is to give a window on what your walk with God is actually like. Although some things would be too personal or inappropriate, mentioning specific areas of weakness or places you need help shows your kids that you actually need God.
- Make it personal. When the year is over, I’m planning on writing a personal note that will go with the bible. But whatever you pass on, sharing your heart with – and for – your child will greatly add to its value.
Day to day, what matters most is loving God and the people around us. If we do that, with just a little bit of extra thought and time, we can leave something behind will remind them of us and the God that we love. And set an example that, with God’s help, they’ll continue to follow for years to come.
Question: What could you leave behind for your kids, or, others you love? When will you start?