With little kids at home, there is a long list of things that give me passion as a dad:

  • Impromptu wrestling matches (Few joys are greater than a freshly launched toddler at the apex of his flight, sporting a grin the size of Texas, folding into a cackle of laughter as his body disappears into a mountain of pillows);
  • Reading books to willing listeners;
  • Building tree houses (Open confession: It is partly for my own satisfaction);
  • Jumping on trampolines (Though it hurts more now than before. What is that jiggling on my body?); and
  • Watching little people smile and make innocent and passionate remarks about taboo things like the life-threatening power of your breath.

As great as these moments are, there is one word that rises to the very top of reasons I’m honored to be a dad: legacy. Webster’s Dictionary defines legacy as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”  I’ve seen the value of legacy in my own ancestors.

A family legacy

My great-great-great uncle, Emory Reese, and his wife, Deborah, were missionaries to Africa for 25 years in
the early 1900s. They translated the New Testament into a tribal language in Western Kenya. He brought the first printing press to the area. He established the “finest brick factory” in the region. The 40 or so of his letters I have at home are a prized possession.

My great-great-grandfather was the first minister at the Quaker (or “Friends”) church in Quaker, Indiana (prior to that it was an open meeting with no predetermined teacher). My great uncle, Kenny, who is in his mid-80s, is still faithfully preaching the gospel in a little country church not too far from there.

My grandfather, Norman Nichols, was a World War II vet who died when my mom was 16.  He was a man of
character, principle, and compassion. Even when hobbled by malaria during his service in the Pacific, he still cared for a sick Philippine child. And when cancer stole his energy and limited his days on earth, he found joy in serving others and building a new sanctuary for their church. The church has grown around that old meeting hall, but the brass plate commemorating his life and legacy still hangs over the entryway.

Many more stories could be told of the family members who contributed to this legacy of spiritual faithfulness. They honored God with their love of their neighbors and spouses and I am extremely grateful to receive such a gift. They have also modeled to me the importance of living out the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 in a daily, practical way, making disciples by, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” My kids are my closest mission field, and it is a great privilege to raise them in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). My hope is to continue to pass on that legacy to the world through my children.

This is a great privilege and yet it is also a great responsibility. Upon hearing stories of friends or high profile people who have damaged their legacy with an act of infidelity, my thoughts turn to my children and my future grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Such stories deepen my burden to pray that God would help me remain faithful and pass on a godly legacy to them. Not everyone has been handed such a legacy but everyone can start a new legacy today—even if you have made mistakes. Embrace the great privilege and set a new direction and leave a godly legacy that will last for generations!

This article originally appeared on Noah Gets a Nail Gun, a blog for dads (no longer active). Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.