Last week, I went to my parents' house and loaded the back of my car with the dining room table and chairs that had belonged to my grandmother. There's still a sideboard and hutch to come, but we thought it was a miracle to get a full-size table and six chairs packed all around me for the five-hour drive home. An afternoon in the car, driving over the mountain with your grandmother's furniture creaking and shifting, gives a woman time to think about her heritage.
I asked for my grandmother's table because I vividly remember all the years of our family around it. The meals we ate and the games we played. The mess she always made in the kitchen. Her alto singing that plays in the background of every memory I have of her. But mostly, I remembered the great joy of being at my grandmother's house. While I was driving home, I decided that I wanted to pass the joy of being around her table to the next generation.
Maybe some would argue with this thought, but I believe the most powerful gift I can give to the next generation is a true and vibrant joy in the Lord.
Joy. Even more than academics. Even more than experiences or inheritance. People who possess real and abiding joy will live powerfully and for the glory of God—no matter their purpose, calling, or path. From generation to generation, I long to leave the legacy of joy.
What if we allow ourselves to be transformed by the joy promised through the indwelling Holy Spirit? And then what if we intentionally teach our children, through spirit and deed, what it feels like to live a life full of joy? Could there be any great gift to leave for the next generation? I think not.
We have lived in our house for three years and never once have we eaten a meal in the formal dining room. Not even a snack. Honestly, I don't think anyone has even had a conversation in that room, but things are about to change. I hauled a 60-year-old table down the mountain so that every day we would remember. We're going to pull up our chairs, open the pizza box, and I'm going to tell my kids about their grandmother of great joy and the God that she loved.
Don't know where to start?
To begin shaping your own legacy, implement these four ideas:
- Have you given any thought to what you'd like your legacy to be? What do you want people to say about you? How would you want them to imitate you? Jot down some ideas.
- Is there a cycle of "joy-less-ness" that needs to be broken in your life? We transfer to others what and who we are. Without an intentional choice to grow in joyfulness, a life without joy will be passed to the next generation. What three things can you do to intentionally turn away from areas of joy-less-ness?
- Think about Proverbs 22:6: "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." If the path you choose is the path of joy, does this ancient truth still hold? How can you model this to the children around you?
- Leaving a legacy of joy for the next generation is about learning to enjoy every mile of the journey. Are you enjoying today? What about the miles you are currently walking? In the next few days, spend some time thinking and praying about your legacy of joy and jot down what God brings to mind.
Joy can become a legacy, but it begins today with you and me. We either choose to give the things we have been given or we choose to live a life that can be multiplied in others.
Angela Thomas is a speaker and author of numerous books including Choosing Joy, from which this blog post was adapted by permission of Howard Books. Copyright © 2011 by Angela Thomas. Check out our interview with Angela at www.todayschristianwoman.com/digital.