I have always had a desire to pass on the legacy of my life to all my descendants. I recognized years ago the basic fact that everyone leaves a legacy. The abiding question is, “Is it the legacy you want to leave?” Many people go through life never having thought about the question. My appeal to all within hearing of my voice is to come to awareness and take it seriously.
When I lived in Vienna, I had a sudden inspiration to think of my legacy as a way of living beyond myself; extending my reach to generations yet unborn. I was aware, the Austrian ruling family of the Habsburgs who held sway over much of Europe, was a dynasty lasting almost 700 years. I fantasized I could do that.
My adult, married kids, engaged with my wife and me in developing a Family Covenant. After several exchanges via e-mails, we came to agreement on the content and wording of it. Once finalized, we had it printed in calligraphy and framed. Now each family has a copy hanging in their homes.
The Collard Family Covenant states,
We covenant together to live our lives in pursuit of God, serving our local churches, our community and the world. We will develop the whole person and celebrate our uniqueness while practicing forgiveness in an atmosphere of grace.
We sought to enfold numerous concepts that were both externally and internally focused. These are high values of principled behavior and character development issuing from our Christian commitment to live Godly lives.
I’ve been profoundly affected by Psalm 78:2-7a
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord and his might and the wonders he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God.
These short verses capture the essence of the teaching of scripture on this subject. As parents, we have responsibility and accountability. The scripture arrests our attention, helping us focus first on ourselves, then our descendants, the children, grand children and great grand children, should we be so fortunate to live that long.
My point can be illustrated effectively in the popular story, made into a musical, of Camelot. In medieval England, Arthur rises from humble beginnings to become king. He brings to his reign a deep seated desire for righteousness to rule the kingdom. Laws governing the behavior of the knights as well as the people are set up to create fairness and an orderly society. Respect of each person is a high value. Ruling is approached more as a committee by the 12 knights along with Arthur. War is forbidden. No more of the dystopian fiefdom or of a narcissistic king. All is well for a while, until power and control manifests themselves resulting in a war, destroying the utopian dream.
We pick up the story at the last scene, after the knights have gone to battle and Arthur stands alone lamenting all he thinks he has lost. And that would be true were it not for young Tom whom Arthur discovers in the background.
From the shadows emerges this twelve year old boy named Tom. Arthur and Tom begin a conversation. When asked of Tom by Arthur how he knows of the Knights and the Kingdom rule and order of Camelot, Tom replies,“I onIy know of them, from the stories peopIe tell.” Then Arthur admonishes the young man, Tom, whom he has just Knighted,
Arthur: Now listen to me, Tom of Warwick. You won’t fight in the battle, understand?
Tom: Yes, my Iord.
Arthur: You will run behind the line and hide until it is over. And then you will return home to England alive. To grow up…and grow old. You understand? You will remember what I, the King, tell you and do as I command.
Arthur wistfully sings,
From December to December
Before you drift to sleep
Upon your cot
Think back on all the tales
That you remember
Ask every person
If he’s heard the story
And tell it strong and clear
If he has not
That once there was
A fIeeting wisp of glory
Now say it out
With love and joy
Where once it never rained
Till after sundown
By eight a.m.
the morning fog had flown
Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment
That was known as
Referring to the boy Tom, Arthur says,
…is my victory!
What we did will be remembered.
It will be remembered. Remembered that is, through the stories people tell and the lives lived, such as Tom, who experienced the dream and carry the possibility of extending it far in to the future.
These are the ingredients of a legacy: a life lived well; intentionally taught; subliminally caught; remembered and rehearsed orally; and transmitted and recast in writing for future generations.
Hear the instructions God gave Moses for his people.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:6-10.)
Dianne and I are tremendously grateful for adult kids who have embraced and live out our family covenant. They have embodied the need for an intentional legacy for their own kids. I’m looking forward to great grand children and if the Lord allows I’ll live long enough to see them take their place in the Collard dynasty of people living well, loving and serving the Lord, passing on the heritage to their children also. So that’s four generations and counting. How many more will it take to out live the Habsburgs?