Through the years of my growing up and into my adult life it seemed that my mother and I were often at cross purposes. We were polar opposites in personality. She could not understand my strong-willed, survivor drive, and I certainly could not understand her tendency to just let life happen.
Even with all our differences, I have always had a sense of gratitude for the legacy that she left – a legacy of faith.
It was Mom who taught us about Jesus, who made sure we were in church every Sunday. It was Mom who stopped what she was doing to answer my questions and lead me to ask Jesus into my heart and life when I was nine. It was Mom who prayed for me as I rebelled and walked my own way.
It was Mom who gave her oldest grandson a Bible and then wrote a series of letters to him to help him learn his way through this wonderful gift of God’s word. Those letters were then sent to each of her grandchildren as they got old enough. They are still being shared with great grandchildren.
Mom has been gone for over thirty years, but I still am grateful for that legacy of faith. She kept journals from the time she was a teenager. Although I have not found time to go through much of what she wrote, I do sometimes stop to read and ponder.
Recently I came across some thoughts she recorded several years before her death as she meditated on Hebrews 11 (the Bible’s hall of faith).
“Faith is taking that first step –
Faith is trusting God’s way of salvation and worship;
Faith is walking with God –
and letting Him choose the destination.
Faith is building an ark –
and not living near the ocean or knowing what rain is;
Faith is looking at stars –
and seeing children;
Faith is coming to the end of a lifetime –
and still looking forward with eyes of hope;
Faith is trusting that God knows how
to take care of a baby son;
Faith is taking the first step.
Faith is marching and blowing trumpets –
when everyone knows that’s not the way to fight a battle!
Faith is trusting God for strength in your weakness –
all the while knowing that the result will be death for you and your enemy.
Faith is believing that giants can be killed with sling shots;
Faith is believing that God is faithful;
and for that I praise Him and am thankful.”
Mom followed these meditations with thoughts about what faith had meant to the women in her family tree, her grandmothers and great-grandmothers. There was Grandma Sarah, a committed Quaker who moved from North Carolina because she and her family could not agree with slavery, and Grandma Ruth who traveled the Oregon Trail, stopping at the Whitman Mission and leaving just months before the Whitman massacre.
But it was her final tribute to her own mother that made me realize that she was passing on a legacy that had been left for her:
“Faith was ever in the heart of mother Mary as she birthed a large family- seven. Three she lost to death because of accident and sickness. She continued on with faith and hope through a very difficult marriage…. She was the one who saw that her children had a foundation in the Bible stories. And she also prayed for her husband and children, having faith that God would lead them where she could not.”
The thing about a legacy is that I must claim it and make it my own before it is real. And so, it is with faith. I had to open my heart and life to let Jesus in before I could possess this legacy. I must make the choice daily to let Him work in and through me. Like the faith heroes of the Bible and the women in my family tree, I must choose to keep my eyes on Jesus no matter what comes my way. It is only then that the legacy becomes mine to pass on to those who follow.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2