FAITH FAMILY LEGACY
Not long ago, I came across photos of my son Daniel’s swearing-in ceremony as a police officer for the City of Louisville, Ohio, the same department from which I retired in 1998. Among the photos was one with my elder brother, Rodney who also spent decades working as a law enforcement officer. It was through spending time with Rod I knew I would love to spend my life, if God would allow, as a cop. Such choices are the things from which legacies are born. However, there are legacies beyond those of career paths. Such legacies are much deeper, stronger, and more life anchoring for when the harsh winds of reality blow and seek to crush your spirit.
Before we venture to those which best sustain us, let’s first look at another major legacy for many, military service. Daniel is creating a 501c3. It began with his vision to help other veterans who, either through service-related injuries or the ravages of time, can no longer completely do for themselves. As a veteran with a service disability, he knows what it means to work through the therapy and be able to pursue your life’s work regardless of the injuries. Permanently scarred and with partial hearing loss, he was still able to qualify for his law enforcement officer commission. Though serving his community through the police department, he felt called to serve outside law enforcement in ways he could continue to serve others. He chose to specifically serve veterans which expanded into serving any first responders. Eventually the vision included anyone no longer capable of doing some of the basic things in life for themselves whether it is cleaning gutters, building a wheelchair ramp, installing furnace filters or just being with them during tough times. Daniel named the company Legacy of Honor stemming from the service of my father in the U.S. Navy in WWII, my USAFR service beginning in the Vietnam era and extending toward the ‘end’ of the Cold War and then his own service with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne. Each was marked by a specific event.
My father’s ship, PC1261, was the first ship sunk on D-Day during the Normandy landings. Not, typically the kind of distinction any shipmate wanted to have. A third of the ship’s crew was lost to the cold water of the English Channel. The day I took the oath of enlistment was the day Saigon fell, again not the most auspicious of occasions. The day Daniel was taking the oath, the entire recruiting center stopped mid-ceremony to listen to the news that Osama Bin Laden had been taken out by U.S. special forces. The place erupted in cheers. Such events are a part of legacies. But still there is something much deeper and certainly less commonly noted, on the other side of the coin with family legacies.
There was a poem about a father handing his son his family name, unsoiled from the previous generations now his to carry and keep for his own son someday. It makes for a great poem but anyone who believes there are perfect families, unspoiled legacies, and fairytale endings of happily ever after either ignores reality or seeks to rewrite it. The title of this piece is Faith Family Legacy and it is written with a specific order in mind.
My father shared his faith in Christ with his sons the only way he knew how. Not open for heartfelt talks, my dad shared things by his actions. His love of Christ was evident and even stories I heard as a kid when we would attend a PC1261 survivors’ reunions reinforced the Christian walk our dad professed.
As a dad, I shared my faith in Christ with my children and even though they saw first-hand an imperfect man who failed them at times, leaving each their own scars; they saw someone who was carried by God’s grace many more times than once. Each of our children have professed faith in Christ and the glory in such a wondrous chain of events affirms the Holy Spirit acting in their lives and I praise God for His work in them. Now our prayers are for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in the lives of the next generation. Already three of our twelve grandchildren have committed to ask Christ to save them and to lead them throughout their life journey. Passing along faith, as in accepting Christ as Savior and depending on God for every day, knowing that nothing is out of His control is a faith legacy.
It has taken decades, over six of them to be exact, to begin to learn that family legacies are not about perfect families, noble deeds done in view of the world or what your job title is. The more families I get to know deeply, the more obvious it is there is no perfect family. Every individual has their own warts and every family has struggles and victories, painful times, and joy. Life is a mixed bag. Forest Gump is quoted as saying, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.’ Some families’ boxes have more nuts in them than others!
A movie my wife and I watched the other day reminded me that life is never guaranteed. One day we will exit it, that is the one certain thing. What legacy will any of us leave behind? As much as I appreciate what Daniel is doing for veterans and the military and police legacies, each of my children are creating legacies of their own in the professional world. Allow me to list them. The work Heidi is doing as a nurse and in the medical management world, all that Sarah is doing in helping individuals prepare for their financial futures, the career Suzanne has in traffic safety and more, and Cyd as an amazing care-giver, teacher and advocate where her love shines through in everything she does, each is a legacy of its own. Every opportunity through which we help someone else can make an impact for Christ’s kingdom. I am so proud of each of them. Every job or role we have in life can be, and should be, a ministry for Christ.
The legacy which begins with a gift to every parent is the one we have for our children and grandchildren in helping them develop their own faith in Christ. The Bible makes it clear that each child belongs to God. They are His and He has entrusted them to us for a season to raise them ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ The Bible records Christ’s own childhood as He grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.
Faith is what God also gifts to us and He will provide it in as much an abundance as we need. Perhaps you may remember the story of the widow who came to Elisha because she had only a little oil left and was about to starve. (2 Kings 4) He instructed her to get as many pots as she could find, borrow pots from other and just bring every pot she could. Then, she was to begin pouring what oil she had left into one of the posts. She kept pouring and pouring and the oil just kept flowing. When her last pot was full, the oil stopped. Had she gotten more pots; she would have received more. We can have as much faith as we will take. God is willing to give us faith with which we can move mountains, but we must believe! Belief is also a gift from God. In fact, there is nothing we can possibly have in this world which is not gifted to us by God. Your next breath would not come if God said, ‘No more.’
Paul wrote, “These three remain, Faith, Hope and Love, the greatest of these is love.” Faith without love is not faith. Hope without faith and love is hopeless.
Recently, I walked past a young man, probably in his twenties. He was wearing a leather jacket emblazoned on the back were these words encircling a satanic star. “I pledge allegiance to me” “I am the master of my fate” “I am god” and several more. At this point, my best option is to pray for that young man, though I do not know his name, God does. This man would tell you he has faith; but that faith is in himself. If he has a family, this man is creating a legacy which leads to destruction. What a horrific thought and how it compels me to pray not just for him but for his children, if he has any.
The legacy we leave when it is our turn to slip the surly bonds of earth, as John G. Magee Jr. wrote, what remains behind whether for good or bad, will be our legacy. Having worked many funerals as part of a previous employment, it was easy to see through the service and those who attended, and even the feel of the service what kind of legacy was left behind.
Take the time today to consider your legacy. It isn’t about having the perfect family, the best job, the most money. It is about those around you having been shown through your life, the love of Christ. No, we aren’t perfect. and we will screw things up. Yes, we all have baggage from the past we really need to shed before moving on. We do not know when our ability to keep writing on our legacy will come to an end. Let us commit to making sure the draft copy is worth publishing when we can revise it no more.