When you consider your legacy, what comes to mind? Many people today focus on collecting material possessions or stockpiling money to pass on to heirs. Legacy is even defined as money or property left to one by a will. However, it can also be defined as anything handed down from an ancestor.
I have my grandmother’s rings and her old sewing basket, as well as two pieces of her furniture. Although dear to me, those things are not what I think of when I consider the legacy she left. Her true legacy was in the truths, morals, and values that she instilled in her family.
Recently I have pondered what kind of legacy I am leaving. I want to leave a Christian legacy that I believe started long ago in my lineage. A Christian legacy would focus upon the morals, values and truths from God’s Word lived out every day.
God instructed the Israelites to surround their children with the teachings and commands of God; He was encouraging them to pass on a Godly heritage as opposed to just passing on things that have no eternal value.
We all leave a legacy by the way we live. As moms, we need to make our legacy intentional. I believe it is our responsibility to assure a Christian heritage in a world that does not support Godly morals and values.
But, how do we pass on a Christian legacy? The following are practical ways I have implemented to encourage a Christian heritage:
1. Keep the Sabbath
Our time is in such demand. We are so busy with our lives that we must schedule the activities we want to accomplish. In doing so, our priorities become evident; that which we value most gets our time.
The fourth commandment focuses on the Sabbath. God commanded that we “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” God “blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11) God set this day apart for rest and focus upon Him.
Today, one way we honor this commandment is by setting aside specific times to attend church. These are times we worship corporately as well as times we receive instruction and encouragement for living our Christian lives.
In our house, nothing comes before church attendance. My daughter was to be in a Ballet
recital. The dress rehearsal was scheduled for Wednesday evening at exactly the same time
as our church’s midweek service. I kindly informed the ballet mistress that my daughter
would not be in attendance. Ultimately, the day and time were rescheduled because after I spoke up, others agreed.
By not allowing other activities to interfere with our church attendance, I am teaching my daughter the proper place for honoring God in our priorities. Even if our schedule is busy, time for corporate worship must take priority. If we allow sports practice or other activities to take precedence over our church attendance, our children will not believe that we truly honor God and put Him first.
2. Use teachable moments
Often we are encouraged to take advantage of teachable moments. Most concepts can be taught anywhere, anytime, and anyplace, but instruction given in a specific context can be more meaningful.
When my daughter began learning about money and the concept of making change, I utilized teachable moments. Sure, she could learn and practice with play money at home, but it was much more meaningful when she practiced in a real situation. For example, she would accompany me to the grocery store and I would ask her to calculate the change I would receive. She learned to make change in a real situation, not a hypothetical one. She saw the importance of learning to make change in everyday life and gained a life skill.
However, this is not only effective in the academic arena. For example, I have taken advantage of the prayer time my daughter and I share to teach her how to mature in her praying. When she first began to pray, her prayers were naturally very simple and some were rote. But, I have seen her prayer life mature throughout her fourteen years. Prayer time became a teachable moment as she was growing up, modeling and instructing so her praying matured.
We can learn many lessons through teachable moments, those moments when the instruction we receive is the most meaningful and timely. To pass on a Godly heritage, we should take advantage of our teachable moments and focus on the meaningful instructions of God.
3. Stay firm and consistent
As parents it is important for us to remain firm and consistent in our discipline. When we are not consistent, our children become confused about what is truly acceptable behavior or what is truly right and wrong.
There is a teenager living in my house now. Her father and I are fairly restrictive on what she watches on television, the movies she sees, and the music she listens to. She approached me recently upset because some of her peers teased her because she had not watched a particular television show. She went on to explain that her friend told her this was a good show that her parents allowed her to watch. Because these friends were from the youth group at church, I decided that we would watch an episode together. We only lasted about two minutes before I abruptly turned it off. The language and morals portrayed were unbefitting for a Christian of any age.
I have been labeled overly-protective and old-fashioned by people in my own family, but I cannot allow the world to creep in and desensitize us to God’s will. When we watch what the world watches or listen to what the world listens to, we are conforming to the world. The more we engage in what the world offers, the more the lines of Godly discernment blur.
It is hard to witness your teenager experiencing persecution. I am often tempted to relinquish, but God has called me to raise my daughter following His precepts, not the world’s. To insure a Christian legacy in our families, we must stay firm and consistent in teaching and emphasizing what God would endorse. If we know that something would not be acceptable to God, we should stay away from it and firmly teach our children to do the same.
4. Model it
“Do as I say, not as I do.” We all know that idea does not truly work, especially as parents. I can tell my daughter that one needs to spend time in prayer and Bible study, but if I do not model it, she will not truly see its importance. When she sees me studying my Bible and praying, she has proof that doing these things has value.
There are many areas in life to model. Our reactions and attitudes in situations and with people are to be modeled. We can preach this, but the best way to convey this is to be kind to that unlovable person.
We are to imitate Christ, and then pray that He would make us a worthy Christian example to be copied.
5. Celebrate “God things”
We praise our kids for soccer goals and good grades; this builds their confidence. It can allow them to establish a healthy pride in doing a good job.
However, do we also praise them for the “God things?” This might include learning the books of the Bible, memorizing scripture, or even establishing a regular quiet time.
My daughter is homeschooled, thus I have included Bible as one of her classes. She is praised for her scripture memorization which is often quite an accomplishment due to the length of the passage. Her knowledge of Bible characters and stories has increased. Most importantly, her understanding of what can be learned from certain scripture and stories has been enhanced. She often tells me what God would want her to apply to her life from her Bible study. Admittedly, I do not think I could praise her enough for these precious lessons.
When we praise and celebrate an occurrence or accomplishment, we show the priority and worth we attach to it. If we want our children to grasp that God and things of God are important, then we must emphasize them.
God is being squelched in our world more and more each day. We as Christians are not to speak about our beliefs or even to pray in Jesus’ name in public. If we want our children to come to know God and follow Him, we must insure it.
Proverbs 22:6 from The Message translation states:
“Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost.”
This is what I desire for my child and those around me that I have influence over. I want to intentionally instruct them in the ways of Christ which is the “right direction.” I do not want them to be lost. Many are seemingly abandoning their faith and church attendance, because they were never taught the significance of Jesus in their lives. They never recognized God and the things of God as important or as a priority in their parent’s lives, so they have no foundation on which to continue a Christian heritage. We must make the things of God evident and make God relevant, showing Him and His ways as our priorities if we wish to insure the continuation of a Godly heritage.
You make some great points here. i like that you are writing a how-to parent article. Kids don't come with directions and it's great to see you real-life examples.
The only advice I'd have is break the middle into smaller paragraphs and then double space between them. If there isn't enough white space, it can overwhelm the reader, making them skip over the article and you have too many good points to allow that to happen. I also notice in the first paragraph that you speak directly to the reader. That can come off as too preachy or sanctimonious and could lose some readers. Instead I might even consider leaving off the first couple of paragraphs and start with something like: The biggest legacy I will ever leave to my children is a firm foundation in my beliefs, and not just my opinion why Susie shouldn't hang out with friends who might urge her to do things I don't approve of, but also the scripture to back up my reasoning so she truly understands my decisions. This is the best gift I can ever give her--the ability to handle the world with Jesus by her side.
That's just an example to show you what I mean. I did it, more to help show you my point, than to suggest my way is right.
I had to giggle about the "Do what I say" line. My husband used to say that a lot and I would tell him kids learn by example not by lectures. I think you have some great insight here, and with some polishing a bit, I could see you submit it to a Christian Parent magazine.