NOTE: Bishop Hayes invited three laity to be guest writers while he is on sabbatical.
By BILL CHISSOE
Legacy can be defined as anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. My full name is William Francis Chissoe III. My father was William F. Jr., and his dad was William F. Sr. My son is William F. IV, and my grandson is William F. V.
I jokingly tell folks that we are secretly starting our own dynasty. The fact that my grandson carries my name, which was also the name of my grandfather, is a constant reminder that I have received a legacy and I am handing on a legacy.
But a legacy is defined by more than just a name.
A synonym for legacy is inheritance. While the two words can be used interchangeably, in my mind, there is a difference.
An inheritance typically refers to tangible assets such as money, a house, or a business. A legacy, on the other hand, refers to intangibles: values, attitude, character traits, and matters of faith.
A legacy does not guarantee adoption by the next generation, but it is the foundation from which that generation will build its legacy.
An ancient writer said, "We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours" (emphasis mine). Some time later, Isaac Newton expressed the same idea as "standing on the shoulders of giants."
We all stand on somebody’s shoulders.
To me, legacy is like a long ladder. Each generation contributes a rung to the ladder, and the succeeding generation stands on it to create another rung. We all will leave a legacy to our descendants.
But what will it be?
You and I need to consider seriously the legacy we are passing on to our children, and the sooner, the better. I believe the Bible gives us some guidance on this.
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise." (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, NIV)
"Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it." (Proverbs 22:6, NIV)
I don’t think the writer of Deuteronomy is saying you must memorize the 10 Commandments and recite them to your children or make your children recite them before they can have their breakfast.
I think he is saying that your thoughts, words, and deeds should reflect God’s rule in your heart, and you should be comfortable speaking about that to your children.
Making your relationship with God part of your everyday conversation not only keeps Him in the center of your life, but also gives those who come after you a foundation for building their own rungs of the ladder.
Have you ever heard someone say, "My dad always said …" or " My dad would always …"?
That’s legacy in action!
I believe the most important part of my legacy to my children and grandchildren is an image of what a vital relationship with God looks like in a person’s life.
The motto of United Methodist Men is: "Declaring the centrality of Christ in the lives of men." The best way for me to make that declaration is with my words and how I relate to others. And I don’t believe I can make a very convincing statement if it’s not true in my life.
So, here’s the deal. None of us can do this on our own. But we have this promise:
"Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday." (Psalms 37:4-6, NIV)
It’s your rung of the ladder. What will your legacy be?
— Bill Chissoe is the Conference president of United Methodist Men and a member of Norman-McFarlin UMC.
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