A popular series of commercials feature young people who are— rather humorously—turning into their parents. The premise for these advertisements is the fact that when young people buy a home, they inevitably begin acting like their parents.
For instance, a young woman starts collecting ceramic gnomes in her front yard, while another young person becomes frustrated with the technology of their smart phone. A young man starts talking to random strangers at the hardware store while another young person begins collecting and reading books about submarines. When asked why, he simply responds, “My dad reads them.”
I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with collecting gnomes or reading books about submarines; however, these humorous commercials highlight the simple truth that many of the things we do mirror the legacy passed down to us from our parents.
It’s true, isn’t it? We become like our parents in more ways than one. It might be a habit, a value, a character trait or even a decorating pattern for the kitchen.
The truth is, children not only mimic quirky habits and repeat the same idioms as their parents, they grow up to hold similar traits, pursue similar interests, and model similar character traits. For parents—especially fathers—considering the legacy we leave our children is worthy of significant reflection.
Merriam Webster defines legacy as “something received from an ancestor.” His definition includes those attributes for which we will be remembered. When it comes to a legacy, Webster wasn’t just thinking about real estate or trust funds; he was thinking about the things in life that we find important, those things for which we will be remembered.
For instance, if you constantly talk to your family about material possessions, that will be your legacy. Your children will remember you as a materialistic person.
If you never spent much time at home because your career mattered most to you, your children will remember you in that way, someone who’s true passion in life was climbing the ladder.
The truth is, long after you’re gone, your children will never reflect with gratitude that you were rich, or busy with climbing the career ladder. No one ever dies with the thought on their mind, “I wish I’d spent more time in the office.”
I remember one woman writing near the end of her life that she wished she’d burned that special candle shaped like a rose and used her best silverware and settings for ordinary meals.
No child will ever eulogize their father for being well dressed or driving new cars or having the best golf game in town.
The truth is, we shape our legacy every single day—in big and small ways. Children will remember you teaching them to fish, throw a baseball or build a table out of reclaimed wood. Grandchildren will remember the time you spent listening to their dreams and encouraging them during days of disappointment.
When it comes to leaving a legacy as a faithful dad, the Bible is filled with some wonderful examples. We can recall the faithful love and forgiveness of the prodigal’s father, who welcomed his son back from his wandering and wicked lifestyle.
There are plenty of poor examples in the Bible as well—from Eli’s unwillingness to discipline his immoral sons to Jacob’s preferential treatment of Joseph that brought division and jealousy among his many sons.
There are a number of examples in the Bible where fathers acted both faithfully and sinfully. I think of Abraham, who raised up a godly nation through his son Isaac, but also sparked thousands of years of conflict through his sin of fathering Ishmael through his wife’s handmaiden, Hagar.
I think of David, who raised up a great kingdom and diligently sought to teach his children to love the Lord, but whose polygamy sparked an intrafamily political drama, filled with rape, murder and treason.
These examples exist as both a challenge and an encouragement for every father today. The challenge is to do our best to honor God as we demonstrate a legacy of godliness. The encouragement is in remembering that God forgives us when we fail.
I want to provide both a challenge and an encouragement as we explore the life of one godly father—Enoch. In just three short verses, God delivers a volume for us on the subject of leaving a godly legacy. I trust you’ll be encouraged to consider your own legacy carefully, cultivate it wisely, and protect it passionately.
Your legacy matters, and with the Lord’s help, you can build a godly legacy worth remembering.