by Milinda Jay
I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13
What sort of faith legacy am I leaving my children?
Our pastor’s sermon made me think about this question. I’m not sure I like my answer.
I want my children to understand that life can be hard, but that God is always faithful.
I think sometimes I’m really good at that first message: life can be hard; but not so good at that second one: God is always faithful.
God is always faithful. God has walked beside me, he has held my right hand, he has assured me that I am not to fear, that he is always there to help me. When I cry out, he sends me friends.
Family Faith Legacies: Those who have gone before us
I come from a long line of imperfect people.
My great granddaddy on my daddy’s side was a horse trader. Ok, probably more like a horse thief. The rest of my family tree includes drunks, poets, womanizers and masters of control.
That’s not to say there aren’t saintly people in my family tree, and probably more of them than the others. But somehow it’s the flaws that go down in the family legends. What fun is it to tell stories of saints at the annual Thanksgiving poker game?
In my family, you make fun of yourself, and hope your humor excuses your imperfections. The cardinal sin is taking yourself too seriously.
Faith Legacy Number 1: The legacy my imperfect ancestors left was one of absolute faith in a perfect God, and a strong sense of the necessity of a perfect God in a world of imperfect people.
We’re all sinners in need of forgiveness was the faith message of my family. Some of us just recognize our sins a little better than others.
Faith Legacy Number 2: How to be iced at a family gathering. Discuss the sins of others.
The Faith Legacies of some Imperfect People:
In an attempt to even out the family record a bit, I want to share the sort of faith those who came before me wore so that I can share with my own children.
My mother stands every day in amazement at the beauty of the world around her. One of my earliest memories is Mama showing me a glorious Florida sunset when I was a preschooler. At 87, she suffers from dementia, yet, every time I see her, she never fails to comment on some beautiful thing in the natural world—the sound of the birds, the color of the sky, the scent of a gardenia. My mother seeks the miracle of God’s created beauty. She always finds it.
My father was amazed by the miracle of the human body. He remarked often on God’s intricate plan and the body’s ability to heal itself of most illnesses. He was a family physician who humbled himself enough to not try and take credit for the body’s natural healing abilities. He stood in wonder, his eyes wide open, waiting to see yet another miracle of God’s perfect plan. He said he was never disappointed.
My maternal grandmother, was so painfully shy that she seldom left her house. Even when age made her even more frightened of large groups of people, Sunday morning and evening, without fail, she went to church. She had faith in the promise that we are blessed when we fellowship with other Christians. And she was blessed. I have the notes she made in her Bible to prove it.
My maternal grandfather feared poverty. Orphaned at age 2, and pushed off to family members who loved him but had their own families to provide for with their meager farms, he began supporting himself at age thirteen, and married my grandmother at fifteen. In spite of his fear of poverty, he tithed regularly. His faithful tithing along with that of the Wilsons and some of his other friends allowed the First Baptist Church in Panama City to stay afloat during the dark years of the depression.
My paternal grandfather walked four miles in the Florida heat to work at the mill every morning carrying his carpenter’s toolbox and lunchbox, and back home again in the night. He was sustained by his faith in God and his belief that it was his job to provide for his family no matter what.
My paternal grandmother memorized entire chapters of the Bible right up until she died so that she could continue teaching her ladies’ Sunday school class. She thought the large magnifying glass she was forced to use to read would distract the women from God’s message. She believed God’s purpose for her was to keep teaching Sunday school, even at 87, and be an example to women her age that God can use you no matter how old you are.
The others: I don’t know much about the faith of my great-grandmothers. I have to believe it must have been strong given the faith of their children.
But, thanks to the faith and perseverance of my cousin Sandy Moore, I have poems written by my great-great grandfather. His faith carried him through the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and 1871. He writes of God’s grace and God’s faithfulness that sustained him even through the horrors of that bloody war.
What about my faith legacy?
What about me?
I can tell my children how during pain and grief, I’ve cried out to God, and he has always sent help.
I can tell my children of keeping my eyes wide open for the blessings of God, and finding them, small daily miracles, and larger lifetime miracles. I can name a few of those miracles for them. Friends. Flowers. Sunsets. Smiles. Laughter. Jobs. Fellowship. Family.
I can tell them that in spite of the unexpected curve balls life has sometimes thrown, God has been faithful –just like his word promises--with a peace that passes understanding, and deep-seeded joy.
I can tell them that when I open my devotional, The Upper Room, and read the Bible every day, there is always, without fail, an insight that I need for that day.
I can tell them that listening and singing along to praise and worship music lifts my heart, soothes my troubled spirit, helps me to find the calm place in the middle of the storm.
I can tell them that going to church and being involved in small groups gives me joy, even when I don’t really feel like going.
I can tell them that praying for God’s moment-to-moment guidance really does work.
Life is not easy. Things do not always happen the way we plan. People hurt us. But in the midst of all of the pain, there rises a joy that overpowers ugly. Every time.
That’s my faith legacy.