The Legacy I Hope to Leave My Kids
When my son was eight years old, he participated in a poetry reading at his school. Friends and family came to support these budding writers and dramatic readers, and just like all the proud parents, I couldn’t wait to hear from my son.
After each student recited a poem, they surprised their mother by reading an original haiku. These poems were supposed to answer the question: What do you think of when you picture your mom?
When it was my son’s turn to recite, my heart swelled. Once he finished the first poem, he cleared his throat to read his original piece:
“Mother: dark hair, large white teeth, very sweaty. My Mother.”
At least he pointed out the white teeth. As for the sweat, I awkwardly explained that I’m was a runner. It was the only thing I could think to do.
While we’ve laughed about that poem for years, I’ve admittedly wondered on many occasions how my kids will remember me. Hopefully, there will be words beyond my sweaty physique and big teeth, but beyond how they describeme, I’ve also wondered about the legacy I will leave behind. What have I taught my children that they will pass on to the next generation?
In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Moses is challenging Israel to consider this same important question, and he gives a clear, concise answer:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
There are two vital instructions in this passage for parents: Love the Lord and teach Him to your children.
Love the Lord
The first part of the passage is not a mere suggestion but a directed command: “You shall love the Lord your God…” If we’re going to pass on a love for Jesus to our kids, then as parents, we need to first seek to love Him with everything we have.
Kids are pretty intuitive. They can sense if our love for Jesus has become less of an intimate relationship and more of a religious ritual. Loving God with all of our selves leaves no room for apathy in our walk with the Lord. Our faith deepens when we’re on our knees asking the Lord to give us a desire for Him. It’s strengthened when we take time to meditate on His Word, and not just to “check off” Bible reading from the to-do list, but to better know our Savior. The more we know about Him, the more we will desire Him. And our love for Jesus increases when our relationship with Him infiltrates every aspect of our lives.
My father was not a perfect parent, but He was one of the greatest examples I had of someone who loved Jesus with his whole being. He talked freely about his faith and incorporated his close relationship with Jesus into everyday life. I remember as a kid walking to the ballpark with dad one spring afternoon. It had been raining earlier that day but began clearing as we drove downtown. He loved his St. Louis Cardinals, but when we entered the stadium, the first thing my dad said was, “Hey, look! God gave us a clear day to enjoy baseball. How cool of Him.” Everything pointed to Jesus, even a clear, spring day at the ballpark.
Teach Jesus to Your Children
The verbs in the second part of this passage are clear counsel for us as parents to seizeevery opportunity to talk about God: teach Jesus when you talk, sit, walk, lie, and rise (just to make sure all the bases are covered!).
Like my dad at the ballpark, we should seek to show our kids that no part of life is separate from our faith. But we also must remember that this passage is not telling us we are responsible for putting a love for God in the hearts of our kids. It’s easy to fall into the mindset that there is something we can do, some “right” formula to follow, to makeour children love Jesus. It’s easy to glance sideways and believe the lie that if we just emulate those parents, those ones we believe did it perfectly, then our kids will love the Lord. Satan loves to see parents distracted by this unachievable goal.
And if our kids are not walking with the Lord, it’s easy to beat ourselves up with the list of all we should have done differently –if we could just have a redo, then our kids would be Christ followers. Satan also relishes in this lie. Believers in Christ, we are all imperfect in our parenting, so hear these freeing words from Jesus: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Neither you nor your child could be saved by perfect parenting. Salvation is by God’s grace alone. Do you see the beauty in this? God has not called us to save our kids, but to love Jesus and to teach Him every chance we get. And when we fail in doing this, His mercies are overflowing. Like a waterfall that never stops, God pours out his mercies over us in abundance, reminding us of the precious redemption we have through Christ.
And after the list of verbs, we are reminded that our love for Jesus should be bound on our hand and put on our forehead. In other words, our relationship with the Lord should be a public commitment not only for the world to see, but for our children to see. Living out our faith is one of the most profound ways we can teach our kids about God and His commands.
Our children learn by example, so if we have built a community for our family that excludes unbelievers, we’re setting an example that says it’s really not that important to be a light in the darkness. If we’re repeatedly embarrassed to talk about Jesus publicly, our example says that our faith is meant to be private. If we’re not concerned about losing our temper at a sporting event, our example says that belief in Jesus doesn’t need to affect our attitude. And if we consistently miss worship because life is just too busy, our example says that worshipping Jesus corporately doesn’t take priority over the other activities in the weekend. Teaching Jesus to our kids is a combination of words and actions.
Thank the Lord for His abundant mercy and grace because none of us can do this perfectly. All of us struggle regularly as we seek to love Jesus and pass on His love to the next generation, but God’s grace is sufficient, and His mercies are new every morning. This passage is not an exhortation to be perfect in order to leave a godly legacy; rather, it is a reminder to love the One who saved you. Love Him and desire Him so much that you can’t help but teach Him to your children. Of all my kids will remember about me (including sweatiness and big teeth), and of all the memories we are making along the way, there is nothing I desire more than for my children to one day say: my mom taught me what it means to love Jesus with my whole heart.