What Kind Of Legacy Are You Leaving For Your Children?

What Kind Of Legacy Are You Leaving Your Children?{We interrupt our regularly scheduled Proverbs 31 programming to bring you this completely random post}

I was listening to NPR this morning and a story came on about wills. Something like half of Americans don’t have wills, and it can leave a mess for loved ones when people die without them. 

They mentioned a type of will I’d never heard of before, called an “emotional will.” According to one website I found, an emotional will “is designed as a way for you to share your thoughts, values, lessons in life, passions, hopes and dreams with your children and future generations in the years to come. This is your chance to ensure that you don’t leave this life with things left unsaid.” 

This struck me as odd, and a little bit sad that this is actually a thing. I mean, I understand the concept behind it, but should this type of thing be necessary? 

I want to leave an emotional will for my family. But I don’t want it to be a piece of paper they read while they are mourning my death and working through what life is going to look like without me.

Just like I don’t want my family to have to figure out what to do with my physical assets when I’m gone, I don’t want them to have to figure out what my thoughts, values, passions hopes and dreams were after I die. I don’t want to relegate those lessons to a letter they open in my absence.

This interview made me realize that every day, I am leaving an emotional will for my children. Everything I say, everything I do, is showing my children what I value, and therefore what they should value. 

I can do this accidentally, or I can do this intentionally. When I get to the end of my life, whenever that is, I want my children to be able to say to themselves and to others, “We know what our mother’s emotional will for us is.” I want them to be able to point to my life and say, “this is what our mother loved, this is what she valued, and this is how she wanted us to live our lives.”

Recently I listened to a sermon series by Matt Chandler about discipling children and families. He made the point that we are all making our children into disciples, the question is: of what.

If we are constantly talking about financial security, worried about money, striving for material comforts and being envious of people who have more than we do, our children will see that those things are important to us. And those things will become important to them. 

If we stress the importance of education, worry constantly about the state of our children’s schools and place great emphasis on grades and getting into college, our children will see that we value those things. And they will value those things as well. Certainly these are good things, important things even, but its easy to let these and other worldly concerns to take precedent over what should matter most. 

We can tell our children what we want them to value, but the lasting legacy we will leave on them comes from the way we live our lives. Our children learn by listening, but more than that they learn by observing. If they hear me say that Jesus is the most important thing in my life, but see me cling to worldly things, they will see right through my words and into my heart.

I can write an emotional will out on a piece of paper, telling my children about the life I wish I had lived and the values I wish I had shown them, and hope they listen to my posthumous words of wisdom. Or I can write my emotional will on my life, through the way I live, the way I love, the person I am because of my love for Jesus. That’s the legacy I want to leave for my children, and for everyone who knows me.

W


2 Responses to What Kind Of Legacy Are You Leaving For Your Children?

  1. Nick says:

    This is insightful Wesley, thanks. It’s very much in keeping with a book I’ve been perusing, James K.A. Smith’s “You Are What You Love.” I think you’d really enjoy it – it’s short, culturally savvy, intellectually stimulating and spiritually riveting. I bet Marshall would enjoy it as well. He talks a lot about the ways our family habits (say, going to the shrine called a Shopping Mall every weekend) shape the true religion of our children’s hearts. Ouch, and also, Amen.

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