Lately I’ve been struck with reminders of the importance of legacy and purpose in our lives—most recently while attending a memorial service for someone I knew at church who died suddenly before Christmas. She was a vibrant part of our church community, serving in many capacities, but most notably as Lady Jellybean, a beloved clown in the children’s ministry. Her passing was a great loss to all who knew her.
This got me to thinking more about the legacy that I’m leaving. What will people say about me after I’m gone? How will my family remember me? I’m the first to admit that I don’t have it all together, that I am at times overwhelmed by all the irons I have in the fire, and even that I’ve fallen short of my kids’ or my husband’s expectations.
I came into marriage over thirty years ago carrying a lot of baggage from a turbulent and empty childhood. I didn’t have the kind of parents who modeled a godly marriage or who poured into my siblings and me in ways that bonded us on an emotional level. Quite the contrary, we didn’t know anything about emotional bonding.
It wasn’t until much later in life, when I re-dedicated my life to Christ, and started attending Bible studies, spiritual growth classes, and Celebrate Recovery, that I realized the damage I was causing in my own family and in myself.
As I started to understand things about myself, learned what I hadn’t received emotionally (or have modeled to me), I began to make changes in my parenting and my relationship with my husband—though both are still far from perfect. The point is, we can make changes in our lives that will affect the legacy we leave behind.
Case in point: although my mother was mentally ill all her life, I realized in her passing three years ago that she didn’t leave me a legacy of mental illness as I had feared she would. She left me a great legacy of faith by modeling that to me. I didn’t appreciate it when I was young, but see it now as a vibrant part of who I am.
Before my father passed away the following year, there was a great deal of healing between us as well. Those last few months gave both of us peace in his passing. Those are the memories that stand out to me now as I think of what he gave me. I attribute that to God’s work in me and my ability to forgive both of my parents early on in my recovery and healing process.
I am breaking the generational curse of dysfunction by modeling biblical principles with my sons. I wish I had known then—when my kids were young—what I know now. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they enter into the therapeutic process because of things I said or did out of my parenting and biblical ignorance.
My hope in all of this is that, when I’m dead and gone, my sons will remember that I had a heart for Jesus and that He became the foundation of my life. And when they decide to enter into the healing process, I hope and pray that they will embrace it with grace for themselves and their imperfect parents, along with embracing their Abba Father, who is the Healer of all wounds.
“Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.” Psalm 30:2, NIV
~ Ardis A. Nelson