Recently I had one of those important parent-child conversations with my daughter Carrie. She was contemplating entering a masters program in non-fiction writing. But, as my daughter is prone to do, she was hit with a wave of doubts and concerns. How would she ever earn a living as a writer? Shouldn’t she earn a degree in teaching or law or medicine or some field where you could earn a decent living? Was studying to be a writer simply a pipe dream and a waste of her time (and my money)?
I began by asking her what God had put in her heart. Clearly He had gifted her with a passion for writing as well as plentiful skills. She had been recognized this year as the top student in her university’s English program. She had regularly been praised for her literary efforts by her professors and classmates at school.
I also told her that she did not need to feel compelled to enter the family “business,” but that she did need to take into account what God had done in her family over the years.
My grandfather, Gerald Richard Sanders Blackaby, was a great lover of English literature (just like his great granddaughter). He had collected literary classics and had written, and published, several poems. His son Henry had taken a different route and studied theology (the rebel!). Though widely read, Henry had not written his first published book until he was 55 years old. Of course it was Experiencing God and that set him on a course to write prolifically for the next two decades. I was 32 when I was first asked to co-author a book with my father. That was 23 years earlier than my father had first written. Since then my name has been placed on around 30 books. My three brothers, my sister, and my mother, have all written books as well.
Last year, we celebrated another milestone. My two sons, Mike and Daniel, published their first book, When Worlds Collide. Mike was 26 and Daniel was 24 when it was released, six and eight years younger than I was when I had my first book published. I tease my kids that, with each generation writing books at a younger age than the previous generation, their kids will be published while still in preschool!
In addition, today, as I write this blog, my son Daniel’s first book in his trilogy The Lost City Chronicles, entitled, Legend of the Bookkeeper is being released. It is the first fiction book to be published by a Blackaby. (I like to joke that it is the first book written by a Blackaby in which someone is eaten by a monster!). What I am especially pleased with is that, while Daniel and each of my kids is serving the Lord, they are doing it in their own unique giftedness and calling. They serve the same God their grandfather, great grandfather, and I do, but in their own unique way.
So, I shared with Carrie that in determining what God was doing in her life, she had to take into account what God had previously done in her family’s life. She was the recipient, for good or ill, of a family legacy.
As I write this, Carrie is attending her first writing seminar in her master’s program! And, while writing this blog, an e-mail arrived from a Christian leader asking if he could meet with Carrie and talk with her about writing a piece that would could help churches. Someone also recently approached her about helping him put a book together that he is writing. It looks like she is on her way to discovering why God gifted her the way that He did!
Some of us have been enormously blessed by our family heritage. We did nothing to earn or deserve it. We were simply born. For others, their challenge will be to overcome what their unbelieving or unfaithful ancestors handed to them. One thing that is certain for each of us, however, is that we must each determine what it is we will pass on to those who follow us. We can’t blame our parents for the paltry legacy we pass on to our kids! That will be our choice!
How do you pass on a legacy? By living wholly for God. By continuing to grow and refusing to stay where you are. You build a legacy when you take responsibility for your own life and refuse to blame others for what your life became. It also results from purposefully investing yourself in the next generation. I have already realized that the single greatest contribution I will make will be to launch three amazing kids into the world who will accomplish far more for God’s kingdom than I ever did.
As I get older, I think more and more about my legacy. As my children get older, I am beginning to catch faint glimpses of what it might be like. As you look at those who follow your life, what are you seeing so far?