My father died in 1976, during my second year of pastoral ministry. It happened without warning — he came home from a normal day's work and had a heart attack. He left behind my mother (who died two years later of cancer) and six children 16 to 26.
My father was comfortable with large families. My great grandmother had sixteen children, including five sets of twins. Her oldest, my grandmother, had eight children. And those aunts and uncles gave me nearly 30 first cousins.
Needless to say, none of my ancestors experienced much financial security with so many mouths to feed. But they were not poor. Nor was my immediate family. I never realized how little money we had until I was older because it seemed we always had so much more.
The first "leg" of our legacy was Christ. When my grandparents accepted the Lord, they accepted Him fully. Obedience and submission to His Lordship were primary. My dad and all of his siblings understood Who gave meaning to life. And they all passed that understanding and love on to each of their children. The story was the same on my mother's side of the family.
The second "leg" was a strong family unit. Moms loved dads; dads loved moms; parents loved kids; kids loved parents; even aunts and uncles loved nephews and nieces most of the time. We were taught to support one another — to "be there" — with our time (like my dad attending all of my baseball games), our attention (like that talk with my mom after I lost a girlfriend) and our prayers (like when my niece was born with a mental handicap). The family provided the stable foundation from which life was to be understood and tackled.
The third "leg" was a solid set of values: Respect for one another regardless of race or creed; tolerance and compassion for others, but not apathy when their lifestyles were sinful; the significance of prayer as a daily weapon; and clear teachings on right and wrong — including the undeniable fact that some truths are absolute and that most originate with God. If it was important to Christ, it should be important to us. Christlikeness was to be our goal.
The next "leg" was the church. It was central to our family life, and therefore to our spiritual life, moral life, social and educational life. Our pastor was a source of awe when we were young, a cherished teacher as teens and a marvelous friend as adults. (He's still at that church, by the way, having recently completed his 70th year as its senior pastor. But that's another legacy tale.)
And, of course, there was country. We loved America, her flag, her beautiful landscapes, her diverse people and especially the freedom she afforded. It seemed the ideal place to grow as one of God's children and heaven's citizens.
As I look back, I fully realize how fortunate, how blessed, perhaps how unusual it was to be raised within such a heritage. The impact for Christ on an entire family was striking. Of my hundreds of adult relatives today, I do not know of one who is not a committed Christian.
My point is that not all legacies are bad. The one my father and mother left me was exceptional. It has helped me avoid many of the pits my peers have stumbled into as we walked through life. It has helped me out of others I fell into myself, and given me the strength to endure those I could not escape. It has given me joy whether I'm happy or sad, strength whether I am energized or exhausted, and security whether I am comfortable or uneasy. And I thank God for it every single day!
I hope the legacy you received was as good. I pray the one you leave is better.
Alan always wondered if he had his dad's approval. As a result, he attempted to earn his father's respect at every turn. However, a man will seek to receive from sexual escapades the intimacy that he never received from his father. Alan was one such man.
One of the driving forces throughout my entire life has been a search for significance. I want to leave my mark. I want to be remembered. And I don't think I am alone.
The need for youth ministry is far more extreme than I have ever thought. Through my experience, I have noticed that teens today have a lot of doubt in God and little respect for their parents. The need for a positive impact by a youth pastor has become essential.