I’m not exactly sure what it is inside me that feels the pull of words and phrases like legacy, family name and inheritance. Maybe it is male ego or pride or survival instinct, but I feel it just the same. What makes a man treasure trinkets like pocket watches, pistols, and cufflinks enough to surround them with ceremony and entrust them to children? What is this gravitational pull I have for my daughter?
Sometimes when I read Abram’s story in Genesis I picture doddering old Father Abraham. He has soft features on his leathery face and you expect him to bounce you on his knee and tell you a story. I think I have missed what all sons miss when looking at their dads: at some point my dad was awesome. He owned a fast car, got in a fist fight, won the state championship, pulled the greatest prank, was desired by women and had a whole life before he hung up his spurs to be a father.
Abram was an incredibly successful businessman who had to carve out his own territory just to feed all the livestock he owned. He was a warrior who raced into an army belonging to three kings to save his nephew. He plundered. He divided spoils. He carried weapons. Abram left his home to put down roots in hostile territory with a sign out front that says, “Don’t mind the dog… fear the owner.” As far as tough and rich men go he was the cat’s pajamas. But there is still that pull.
It’s like one of my favorite sports movies, “For The Love of The Game.” A pitcher for the Detroit Tigers ends his career by pitching the perfect game to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium (talk about hostile territory), but in the end his victory is incomplete. The woman he loves and her child are not there to share it with him, and the camera fades to black on the frame of a lonely man in a hotel room crying. For young men, this seems a bit sappy and unrealistic, but as we age… men understand this pull… this feeling that no matter how awesome you are it is incomplete without… family… legacy.
In Genesis 15 after Abram has pulled of his daring raid and rescue he has a heart to heart with God and he shares what is really bothering him–will he actually have a son to carry on his name?
My wife and I started trying to have children about five years ago. It wasn’t for vainity’s sake or the tax breaks. It was like a chemical reaction that our love for each other, when combined, intensified to the point that it outgrew us. That much love couldn’t fit in just two vessels. So first we got a cat. Because cats are black holes of love. You can shower them with love and every drop disappears, leaving only mild tolerance in its place. Needless to say this did not satisfy my pull toward legacy. So we went off birth control, because “Why not?” and “We want this to be fun.” Then we started to pay attention to the calendar. Then we started to pray and “try” on a schedule. Then we started to wonder if there might be something wrong with us. Was it me? Should I go to the doctor? Maybe it’s my diet. Maybe it’s her. That would crush her… please God let it be me.
Then after two years and three or four “last ditch efforts” we got pregnant. We celebrated with all the people praying for us: our church, our family, our friends… and then we lost the baby. We got pregnant again a year later and… the fear we felt… we didn’t tell anyone right away. We waited until we felt it was safe and then we told a group of close friends only to lose the baby the very next day. I don’t really even understand why all this meant so much to me. That legacy, that future remained out of reach. Now that my wife and I finally have our own daughter I feel that gravitational pull. I miss her all day and then I come home, hold her, and think, “Yep… still a baby… doesn’t do much.” And I wonder why I was so anxious to be near her so I put her down and that invisible tether pulls me back. I love my Genevieve. I also want to try for a boy… you know… family name and all.
So I don’t blame Abram for laughing when God told him he was going to be a father late in life. I understand when Abram wanted to take matters into his own hands and had Ishmael with Sarai’s servant. But now that I have my daughter I don’t understand how he had the strength and faith to almost sacrifice his son Isaac. And this story is so beautiful because God says to him that because Abram was willing to sacrifice his son on this mountain God would do the same but go through with it. That mountain of Abram’s sacrifice becomes the mountain the temple is built on. God provides the Lamb to be slain both on Abram’s mountain and later on Calvary. Because of Abram’s faithfulness the rest of us are blessed.
I hope when the time comes I am strong enough to do the thing on this earth that God will mirror in heaven. I hope that what I’m pulled to here on earth won’t pull me away from God’s will. Part of me wants to give incredible blessings to others and part of me is scared of the cost. I used to pray my kid would be President or an astronaut or cure cancer. Sometimes now I think it might be enough if my kids just love Jesus, work hard and don’t end up on the alter of my own ambition.
Holy Spirit, give me the faith I need so God can use me as a blessing. Let my legacy be one that my children can pass on to their children.