THE CAMPFIRE crackled, casting flickering shadows on the four generations gathered around it at our annual "Cousins' Campout."
Glancing around at the faces of my extended family, I considered how diverse we werefrom farmers to international businessmen, pastors to agnostics, conservatives to liberals. In other circumstances, many of us probably wouldn't even be friends. But because we share a common heritage, we draw together once a year to celebrate our family.
At the heart of this gathering is my grandmother's memory. Widowed and left with the staggering responsibility of raising seven children and running a small ranch during the Great Depression, she became a powerful testimony to faith in God.
Many around the campfire never knew my grandmother, who died when I was a teen, but her imprint on our family is evident. Although it's never been discussed, no one would dream of opening a beer can or lighting a cigarette around the campfire. Nor will there be any swearing. Regardless of how we conduct ourselves separately, at Cousins' Campout everyone defers to Grandma's standards.
Some of her seven children have carried on their spiritual legacy into succeeding generations. Others have chosen not to. Yet, each of us are reaping the benefits of our godly heritage.
I'm reminded of King David. Long after his death, David's descendants also benefited from their godly heritage. Although some walked in utter wickedness, they still didn't experience the full wrath of Godbecause of David's faithfulness (1 Kings 11). What an incentive to be faithful!
In a recent conversation about our children's future, my friend lamented, "I pray the Lord returns before I become a grandmother. Things are so bad now, the next generation doesn't stand a chance."
My heart resisted her statement. True, it's easy to feel hopeless when we hear of the spiraling crime rate, the breakup of the family, the moral disintegration of our society. But such hopelessness directly conflicts with God's Word, which promises peace and joy to those who put their hope in Christ. Jesus says, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). A fulfilled life isn't conditional to circumstance; it's conditional to our faithfulness.
My grandmother refused to lament her state of affairs after her husband's death. She fixed her eyes on Jesusnothing else. Throughout her life she held no political office or public position of influence. She accumulated no fortune to pass on, left no noticeable mark on the world at all, except her faithfulness to God! And my sons, who never knew her but have heard much about her life, are the beneficiaries of that heritage.
Now it's my turn to concentrate on just one thing: to live my life in a way that will cause God to pour out his Spirit on my offspring and his blessing on my descendants (Isa. 44:3). What greater legacy can I pass on to my family?
1998 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.