by Jennifer Duncan
I once heard an inspiring speaker on parenting, ask the question, “When you think of your mother or father, what do you see them doing? What do you hear them saying?” I realized that there are particular attitudes and actions that I instantly associate with each of my parents…and this is their “legacy” to me. Because “love” is actually related more to actions, than to feelings, what my parents said and did formed their long-term effect on me.
The thought made me stop to reflect, “What will my children remember about me?” What will they know I valued most? How will my life affect what they believe?” It’s a topic worth thinking about, since life is perpetually uncertain, and it truly does matter what values and attitudes our families associate with the lives we have lived.
As I prayed, and searched the scripture and my own experience, I realized that the values I want to project settled down to three.
FAITH. I hope my children know that I wanted my life to be God-centered, not me-centered. I want to keep a faith perspective that does not get mired in the muddy mess of earth’s circumstances, but instead keeps a focus of faith that God is ultimately in control. I want to see even small occurrences as things that God can use for His glory and my good. I know He doesn’t cause all things; sometimes we set negative consequences in motion with our own choices, and sometimes we are victims of the sinful choices of others…but He can work it all for good.
Recently, I was driving on the highway, in a hurry, as usual, and of course, the driver in front of me was going under the speed limit! My rights had been violated! He was slowing me down! But my slower pace allowed me time to question my attitude…did I really have a “right” to go a certain speed? Might there be “good” in the delay? Is it possible that I was protected from something tragic up the road, where a few seconds delay made the difference?
If I really believe, “God works all things together for good to those who love Him….” Romans 8:28a, then I assume God is up to something good…always! That conviction needs to affect my attitude toward everything I face each day.
PURPOSE. The second legacy I want to leave is a life of deep purpose. I know that God has a plan for every believer, and when I tune in to the clues He gives me, I can know the call He has set before me. God wants the world to benefit from my presence in it, for however long He choses to leave me here. I want to be alert to the sense of purpose He gives…spending my time pursuing the things which have eternal value.
Throughout my life, I have been periodically attacked with doubt about my worth and purpose. “What worth do I have when all I’m doing is changing diapers?” “Do I still have value when my children grow older and need me less?” “What is my purpose now that I am a widow and no longer my husband’s partner?” These were some of satan’s whispers….and I have had to knock him back on his heels with scriptural truth. I can stand on the certainty that God’s plan is always there…always good…and always full of purpose.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your good and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
JOY. I recently read a challenge to live in “joyful expectation” that God is at work in and through me, and that there is always something for which I can be grateful. This has become my third primary desire. I realize that “joy” is not the same as “happiness” which is based on what “happens to me.” “Joy,” rather, is a deep, abiding confidence that God is ordering my days, and that I can trust Him. Because of this truth, I can have joy in any circumstance, even when my human emotions have me in tears.
“Rejoice in all circumstances, and again, I say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
Someday, after the time for legacy-making is done for me, my sons may ask, “When I remember mom, what do I see her doing? What do I hear her saying?” I hope they remember actions and words that reflected FAITH, PURPOSE and JOY. If they look back with mercy, maybe that’s what they will see.
Jennifer is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is mom to two grown (twin) sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law and four granddaughters. Her late husband, John, pastored two churches in Barry County, Missouri, and one in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Jennifer serves in teaching, music and lay counseling through her church, Arnhart Baptist Church, Purdy, Missouri. She also enjoys leading retreats and Bible studies for women.