Legacies

I’ve been thinking about the idea of legacies lately for a couple of reasons. First of all, I have a dear uncle who is in the process of transitioning from death into life as he deals with mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Second, I have had some really great moments with my own family over the last couple of months as they have supported me through my time of job searching and subsequent employment.

My uncle is an anthropologist and he was having a conversation with my father a week or so ago and was talking about the importance of the bond between grandparents and grandchildren. He believes that children are half persons because they are not yet fully formed. Young adults and those adults who have not yet reached retirement age are whole people because of their identities, lives, schedules, careers, relationships, etc. As adults become older they become half persons again as they move back into a place of dependence. Therefore, according to his theory, the bond between grandparents and grandchildren is very strong because they are completing one another (not in the Jerry Maguire sense). I’m sure he said it in a much more eloquent and inspiring way, but I still think it’s a beautiful thought.

When he was diagnosed with this illness, he sat down with each of his grandchildren individually and slowly went through all the family albums and Paul, my uncle, spoke with each of them about their family heritage, what their grandparents had done for the sake of Christ, what their parents had done, etc. Then, he passed the mantle to each of them, telling them that now it was their turn. Anyone familiar with my uncle’s work knows that he’s big into ritual and this I think is a beautiful one.

Regarding my immediate family, our relationship just continues to improve over time. We are learning to honor one another as the years pass and we’re all learning how much better it is to be happy than to be right. While I was looking for a job, they were so great, always encouraging, praying, helping out if necessary. When I was at a particularly discouraged place, my mom called to ask how I was and in a genuine attempt to encourage me, she spoke to me of God having a plan, etc. I have no doubt of her motives, but I was not in a place to receive it, and I kind of went off at her. It wasn’t directed toward her, per se, and I think she knows that. I told her that I knew God was acting, but I needed to see it because I was very discouraged. She did a good job of talking me down off the ledge.

My dad called me later to talk about how he had decided that he was going to start memorizing scripture. He never thought he was capable of that because he is dyslexic, but he said he was going to do it. He started with Psalm 40:1 – 3, which reads:

1 I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD.

He recited them to me and said he believed he’d been led to them for a reason. Over the following weeks, those verses have been very handy for him as he’s ministered to people in his circle.

Later that evening, my phone rang and I saw that it was my dad. I picked it up, said, “Hi, Dad.” And he said, “Let’s pray.” And he prayed a beautiful, strong prayer, truly as a father on behalf of his daughter, asking for God to act on my behalf. It was truly one of the most meaningful interactions we’ve ever had.

In addition to my father and my uncle, my family is full of legacies of ministry going back generations. My great-grandfather went to Washington to fight for the rights of Conscientious Objectors in times of war. My aunt is an Episcopalian priest (or is is Episcopal – I never get that right) serving in a hospital in Chicago. Cousins are church musicians, pastors, and many have served in overseas missions. Both my physical and spiritual DNA wire me for ministry and I am so proud and honored to have such a rich history serving Christ and I hope in my own life that I can do it justice.
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