Many parents think about the heritage they will leave their children. We often think of it in terms of an inheritance, property, or even our family reputation. Perhaps more important is the spiritual heritage that we leave our children. I can think of more than a few stories from my own family that signify to me the importance of our family's spiritual heritage.
My first pastorate was south of Opelika in an area known as Beauregard, Alabama. I was appointed to a circuit of three United Methodist churches, and when I arrived at the first church to preach my first Sunday, I discovered that a number of the folks in the congregation knew my great-granddaddy, John Standridge, and remembered hearing him preach on occasion. He was known as "Red" because of his bright red hair. Some of them even said that I reminded them of him, probably because I shared his memorable hair color. He was remembered fondly as a man who loved Jesus deeply and preached with passion. It was very special for me to begin my ministry in an area where my Granddaddy Red had served with faithfulness. He left me a heritage that made me want to pursue excellence in order to guard his good reputation.
Not too long ago, my grandmother became quite ill and now requires constant care. During a recent visit I had opportunity to watch my granddad, Paw-Paw, care for her in love as he fed her and sang softly to her. What a magnificent demonstration of covenantal love. She has come to the point in life when there is very little, if anything, that she can offer. Yet he lavishes his love on her with joy. That reminds me of the way that God bestowed his extravagant love on me despite the fact that I had nothing to bring to him. In a day when people often go into marriage only for what they can get out of it, my Paw-Paw is leaving me a heritage of unconditional covenantal love, and I long to pass that same heritage on to my children.
My dad used to manage a restaurant. And anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant knows that no one looks forward to the day the truck comes, especially when it's summer time. The work is hot and sometimes heavy. My mother has told me the story of one day in particular when my dad was unloading a stock truck at the restaurant with several of the other workers. When the job was done, the driver of the truck came up to my dad and asked if he was a Christian. My dad replied affirmatively and questioned the driver as to how he had known. The driver answered that while all the other men were swearing and complaining about the heat and the work, my dad did his job quietly and with a good attitude. The driver must have thought that my dad's character could only be the product of grace that comes through Jesus Christ. I hope others see Christ in my life like that. That's a big part of the heritage that my dad left me.
So, what sort of heritage will you leave your children and others who come after you? There's nothing wrong with houses and furniture, but I hope that won't be all. I hope your children will remember you as someone worth emulating and a person of character. That's the kind of heritage that is being left for me, and I hope it's the sort of heritage that I will leave for my children and grandchildren.
Originally published in the Union Springs Herald on August 3, 2011.