John F. Kennedy once famously said: "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country!". It's a quote that has been repeated, and lauded and applauded for 60+ years. And for good reason. There's a level of honor, selflessness, generosity, and virtue that it evokes. It calls for individuals to see themselves as being valuable and needed members of a flourishing and growing society - to be actively striving for the good of others instead of solely passive recipients who benefit from the sacrifice of others.
But long before Kennedy gave this speech, the Bible called for us to see ourselves as valuable and needed members of a flourishing and growing body (1 Corinthians 12:14-27) - to be actively striving for the good of others instead of being content as solely passive recipients who benefit from the sacrifice of others and of Christ (Philippians 2:1-5) (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
In other words, our adoption and redemption through Christ gave us membership into his family and part of that family equation means we see ourselves as being part of something bigger than ourselves. We see others needs as valuable. We see our ability to contribute to those needs as meaningful.
And while we know and understand this concept in an intellectual way - I wonder if we sometimes miss out on the blessing of knowing and understanding it in a deeply heartfelt way. The kind of way that evokes the most cherished memories and emotions. The kind of way that causes us to desperately yearn for the next generation to know and understand and live out their lives in the same way.
The kind of way that keeps us up at night because we feel it in our very core:
We must do something.
Cherished Memories and Emotions
When I was growing up my parents were constantly involved in some sort of service outreach. Each project or cause looked different and blessed different people in different ways. But every outreach had something in common. They involved me and my brother in it.
Sometimes that meant making meals and taking us with them to deliver it to a hurting family or making visits to nursing homes or hospitals. Sometimes that meant making sandwich boards and having us walk around church as we proudly wore them. Sometimes it meant going to church or school work days and us getting to ride around on big machines or in the back of the truck. Sometimes that meant going to the store and letting us pick out as many items as we wanted for care packages or food drive. Honestly the list could go on and on. And my mom and dad would probably be embarrassed if I did - because the list is long. (In fact, this blog post as a whole would probably embarrass my parents) But I think it is a worthwhile and edifying thing to share because ultimately this is about something bigger than them.
As we got older, our roles took on more responsibility, and involved less playing and more working. But the truth is - some of my favorite and most cherished childhood memories are connected to the moments that my parents were serving others and purposefully chose to involve us. We were just two young kids - sidekicks of the servants. We played and ran and threw abnormal amounts of items in shopping carts. We didn't recognize it at the time, but as we watched my parents serve and love others, we were learning.
The Next Generation
From a young age, I watched and understood that serving others was what God wants us to do - that it is an integral part of what our day to day life should look like. I saw the heart of my parents and it inspired me to want walk in their footsteps...to love and serve others well using the gifts that God has given me.
A few months ago, I was visiting an organization that my parents (and family as a whole) had been deeply connected with for many years. As I walked around and was introduced to different people I was completely amazed at the sheer amount of people who had never met my parents and yet had heard of and seen their lasting impact and were encouraged by them. Over and over I was told by complete strangers that my parents had touched countless lives in this way or that way. I mentioned this to a person there who had known my parents and she made the comment: "This place would not be the place it is today without your parents. They are baked in."
That day, those conversations, that comment ... changed my life. Forever.
It was an incredibly profound reminder - we have no idea how our actions affect others. Long after we move on to different things, God continues to use those actions and those prayers for His purposes. He uses us to bless others, to encourage others, and to draw others to Himself.
As I have mulled over that day over the last few months, I have found myself having an even deeper and even more meaningful heartfelt understanding of serving and loving others. Those cherished childhood memories of being sidekicks to the servants seem to make their way to the forefront of my mind more often. My heart desperately yearns for the next generation to follow in these footsteps - to be actively striving for the good of others, and not be content with being solely passive recipients of others sacrifice, to fully embrace all that it means to be adopted and redeemed into God's family. I find myself lying awake at night because at my very core I know: we must do something.
This isn't something that just happens.
This is something we cultivate.
It takes time to grow.
It takes consistent care and attention - it takes intentional effort
And it takes God's grace.
Carrying the Torch
Parents of the younger generation - I present this to you and I humbly, enthusiastically, and wholeheartedly ask:
Will you join me in carrying the torch?
Will you raise the next generation to fully embrace all that it means to be adopted and redeemed into God's family?
Will you model for them week in and week out what it looks like to love and serve others?
Will you let them become sidekicks of servants?
Our answer to these questions will have a direct impact on our kids having the blessing of knowing and understanding these things in a deeply heartfelt and meaningful way. It's a legacy worth building together.
Now is the time - we can't wait and we can't be passive.
We must purposefully and intentionally carry this torch.
Friends, our actions as parents have a deeper impact than we will ever know.
Let us earnestly seek to know Christ and make Him known.
Let us spare no effort in loving and serving others.