by Cavin Harper
There are few things that compare with the excitement of becoming a parent for the first time—though becoming a grandparent for the first time is right up there. Both experiences are too wonderful to describe. I’m sure you know what I mean.
When my first grandchild was born, I was both excited and sobered by the realization that another generation of my flesh and blood had been born. I am probably more acutely aware of the significance of my role as a grandfather than when I became a father. Though they are very different, as a grandfather I was suddenly faced with the awareness that I had responsibility to provide a critical strand in the family cord.
The wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “A cord of three strands is not easily broken” – helped me understand the part God had given me as the third strand in my grandchildren’s lives. (The second strand is the parents, and the first is Christ.) My desire is that God will make me a strong and useful strand. I want to leave a legacy that will endure.
Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.” Though this refers primarily to an inheritance of wealth, are material possessions all I am responsible to leave to my grandchildren? The wise man will certainly take steps to pass on his treasures as a legacy, but a truly worthwhile legacy is built of stronger stuff.
In their book The Heritage, Otis Ledbetter and Kurt Bruner write, “A heritage is the spiritual, emotional and social legacy that is passed on from parent to child … good or bad.” They illustrate how these three components provide a connection to one’s past, an identity and security in the present, and hope for the future.
So how can we, as grandparents, ensure that we are building a lasting legacy that is worth passing on? Here are some suggestions:
Jump into your role with eagerness and expectancy. Don’t be an absentee grandparent who lets the parents and other grandparents do all the work (and get all the blessing). Grandparents, we hold the key to a successful inheritance. Your grandchildren need your example and your involvement in their lives. When they are with you, they need to experience a place of safety and stability, a place of unconditional love, and a place of fun.
Leave a Written Legacy
Put in writing your thoughts about the lessons of life, your own spiritual journey, and the choices that must be made. You may want to write these in a journal or in a letter that’s tailored to each of your grandchildren personally. Here are some ideas for the kinds of things you might include:
- childhood experiences that shaped who you are
- your perspective on school and education
- relationships with and attitudes toward the opposite sex
- character, purity, godliness
- your own faith journey and view of God, salvation, church, and ministry
- personal temptations and struggles, fears and failures, successes and victories, dreams and passions
- family relationships
- family values and traditions
- career choices and philosophy of work
- thoughts about death, grief, pain, suffering, friendship
- financial stewardship and giving
- social issues
- non-negotiables in life
- your favorite scriptures
However you choose to do it, write them now, while you have the opportunity.
Give Your Blessing
With the birth of each of our grandchildren, I have prepared a grandparent’s blessing, printed it out on parchment paper, and framed to hang on their bedroom wall. Whenever we communicate with our grandchildren, my wife and I want them to know what a blessing they are, and we remind them of the specific blessing each received from us. Each blessing is personal, with reference to the significance of their names. As a grandfather, I pronounced the blessings in the presence of their parents. They were special times for all of us.
I want our grandchildren to grow up continually aware of the legacy of God’s blessing upon their lives. What legacy will you leave for your grandchildren?
Cavin Harper is Founder and Executive Director of Christian Grandparenting Network (christiangrandparenting.net). He is author of Courageous Grandparenting: Unshakable Faith in a Broken World as well as several articles and blogs. Cavin has served in various ministry positions and has operated a retreat center with his wife Diane. They have been married for 44 years, have two children and nine grandchildren, and live in Colorado Springs.