Choose Your Legacy

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been.'”

~ John Greenleaf Whittier

We don’t get a second chance at life. The life choices we make will affect our families for the rest of their lives. We can die surrounded by our dear ones, knowing that despite our mistakes, we loved them all well, or we can die essentially alone, having lost all that matters in life: the respect and regard of our spouse, children and grandchildren.

It won’t matter to my six children what flaming essays I wrote about the great evangelical disaster, what powerful broadcasts I did on radio against all the ills of the day, or how silver words rolled off my tongue, including Scripture, if at home I did not love them and their father.

The greatest petri dish for atheism and rebellion is not a secular university filled with hatred for God. The best place to create contempt for Christ is a professing Christian home that is actually a lie. No greater disgust can be earned by a parent than to speak of loving God who they can’t see, while mistreating or neglecting the family right in front of them.

We can speak great swelling words about the resurrection power of Christ to heal sexual deviants, abortionists, murderers, and drug addicts, but if that same Christ is not allowed to heal the relationships in our own lives, we make a mockery of our claims.

We can serve God until we collapse in exhaustion, deny ourselves vacations, rest and all earthly pleasures, but if we do not love those closest to us, our own flesh and blood, our service is meaningless in the end.

We represent Christ to our children as parents in the home. All the lip service in the world regarding spiritual things, and all the righteous standards we erect against the vices of the day will never hide hypocrisy from the eyes of those who know best.

Sin, when it is covered up in a family, spawns a million evils. It eats like a cancer at the trust upon which all real relationships must rest. It kills joy and faith, it steals what is sacred and it lays waste to all that is precious and irreplaceable.

Every one of us has a choice in our families. We cannot change whatever sorrow existed in some of our families of origin. Sometimes, the sin sickness is so deep and has twisted minds and hearts so completely that only biblical separation from that sin is possible. But all of us can address the marriages and children entrusted to us now. All of us can live, starting now, so as to not have further regrets.

The ruins of families that might have been so different are all around us. Think for a moment of all the happy innocence, all the laughter and all the life-giving joy that might have been in so many homes, homes that were instead filled with rancor and hatred, grudge-holding and betrayal.

If you think that anything in your life, including going out ‘serving God,’ is more important than your family, imagine yourself as a dying man or woman in the last hours of life. Imagine the horrible barrenness of dying without the love and respect of your children and grandchildren. Picture the regret of that person who could have filled the lives of these people with love and joy and wise instruction, but chose something else instead.

We will all leave a legacy behind. Those who profess Christ will either leave a legacy of Christ’s love stamped upon the hearts and lives of their families or they will leave a legacy of hypocrisy, destruction, misery and sorrow.

The choice is ours. We are all choosing that legacy now.

19 thoughts on “Choose Your Legacy

  1. Carla R. says:

    Wow. Just wow. Thank you, Ingrid. This is powerful. I am sharing with our Bible study.

  2. carolynb says:

    Wow, Ingrid. You really knocked that one out of the park in a powerful, yet beautiful, way. We heard a young assistant pastor once say from the pulpit, “It is possible to destroy your family for the sake of ministry”. And that is very true. As you said, anyone who sets out to do a mighty work for the Lord but who neglects his/her family in the process, has done more harm than good. The first and foremost ministry in every believer’s life is shepherding their own family.

    I think your post could also apply to the leaderships of Bible believing churches. Nothing will breed atheism, rebellion, and resentment toward God more than a church that preaches the word of God but where those in leadership are hypocrites. It’s no wonder why Jesus Christ condemned the Pharisees so much in Matthew 23.

    It is only by God’s grace and the power of His Holy Spirit that we can be believers “in whom there is no guile”, who can be loving and truthful witnesses to our dear loved ones. May God lead us to be the spouses and parents He would have us be.

  3. Lisa K says:

    The human race has a history of “excusing” great men who have bad personal lives if they are doing something huge for the common good. It’s happened time and time again in politics, science, sports, the arts, religion, etc. Look at the latest incident in the news today of that French politician attacking a maid at his New York hotel. This married man is possibly the next President of France even though similar behavior towards women had occurred in his past. I am disgusted with so many powerful men – and that goes for religious leaders too!

  4. christina says:

    Ingrid-

    What a great post. Thank you. I wish so many more people (especially in the church) would realize this. Andy wanted to go to school but once he realized I was pregnant and either he would be gone all the time working and school or I would work after the baby was born. He chose to opt out of school. To this day some people tell him he didnt have enough faith. He knows though that it was the best decision for his first ministry….his family.

  5. Paula says:

    Extremely convicting. I have enjoyed refocusing on family responsibilities and avoiding the arguments. I am so glad I have lost my taste for it, for the most part, and pray it will stay that way.

  6. Pastor Mark says:

    We are posting this on our church website under helpful articles. Thank you, Ingrid. Your Hope site and Crosstalk Show have been a great blessing.

  7. Randy says:

    I think there’s nothing to add to what you have written here. Simple and yet profound.

  8. Debby says:

    Wow….I would say that you pretty much describe my family. Things have not been good for many years with my family, but when my Mom passed away…mom was the glue, everything came to a head and got worse. My husband and I have pretty much left the, hyprocrisy, manipulation, control, destruction and drama behind. Life is much more peaceful. Thanks for posting and for you honesty.

  9. Ron says:

    Hello
    I’ve followed your radio show for some time now and your commentary on Crosstalk, but only now discovered this blog. I find this such an urgently needed message – I wonder if I may quote parts of it on my blog or, if that is not possible, whether I may post the link to this article?

    Keep up the good work. May God bless you and your family.

    Blessings from Perth, Australia

  10. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Feel free to link to anything here at the Hope Blog, or quote with citation. Thank you for writing from Perth!

  11. Ron says:

    Thank you so much.

    If I may say so, this blog reveals a lot more of who you are and what your walk with Jesus is really like than your radio shows. No offence intended! It’s just that your writing somehow makes you….real. And I don’t mean that flippantly. As necessary as your work with Crosstalk is – and it’s been key for me personally – I’ve just devoured your writing on here. It’s nice to know that you’re not that different from us here in the land of sheep and kangaroos!

    G’nite and God bless!

  12. CJ says:

    I’m glad God’s Grace covers ‘blindspots’, else we would all be in trouble! I guess the Judgment Seat of Christ is where the reckoning happens on those kinds of things, attitude issues. I know there is a delicate balance of honoring your parents and not lying to cover up sin/enabling the problem.
    I applaud you for addressing your issues with family with such grace. I’m still working on that one.

    What I have had a hard time convincing most ex-collegiates of mine is that the sin and issues in that particular ministry were two-fold. 1. the sexual sin, which was repented of as far as we knew, and was obvious.
    2. the not so obvious: the pride, the stubbornness and behind-the-scenes lack of character in dealing with employees, staff, etc., similar to what you mentioned in your note. The spying, bugging of offices, threats in the pulpit/sermons of not going elsewhere for teaching, counseling, advice, etc., etc.
    I agree with some of the other comments about power corrupting. Any unresolved personal issues get magnified when someone who can’t handle power is given that kind of god-like power over people.

  13. Jeremy says:

    The behavior you’re describing in fundamentalist church leadership is the norm, and not the exception. Every victim thinks they are the exception, and that the treatment they have received is rare. If you’re lucky, you never find yourself outside the leader’s graces, or you just learn never to question the leadership.

    What you basically have got is a lot of arrogant and narcissistic people who masquerade as humble (“I’m not great; I’m only a servant, but I’ve been chosen specially by God with a mission”). These leaders tend to be the types who are already arrogant to begin with. And then you throw into the mix that they think God is on their side, and it’s just a recipe for disaster for interpersonal relationships. It’s hard to resolve an issue with another person when you think God is on your side.

  14. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Jeremy, you said it all. There’s nothing I can add. Thank you, sir.

  15. Jeremy says:

    You’re too kind. If you would permit me one follow-up comment:

    One of the reasons people think they are the only victims is because these abusive and narcissistic leaders are almost never exposed. Although these leaders cause their victims a great deal of harm, most operate well below the threshold of an overt criminal, so the legal system is of no avail. More importantly, there is a pervasive attitude that questioning the leadership is sinful and if you do, you must be a “sower of discord” or “causing division”. If a conflict arises, it’s probably your fault — after all, nobody else has problems, and look at all the good he is doing with God. If the leader seriously hurts you or somebody else, either suffer silently or just look the other way. If you can’t adopt this learned helplessness or just learn not to look too closely, then leave the church. Don’t tell anybody what happened to you. If the situation comes to light, be vague and don’t go into details — it’s sinful to be a gossip. Above all, never name names. Most people will never know there even was a conflict, and if they do, they will just assume it was over some petty matter. In truth, the leader’s actions ought to result in his dismissal. And much of the congregation would agree, if they ever knew. But they don’t, so this is repeated over and over again.

  16. carolynb says:

    Ingrid: you said, “If leaders like this can harm the faith of older believers, think what this does to a newer believer. It’s a very grave offense in God’s sight.”

    Thank you for stating that very important truth.

  17. CJ says:

    Two books that helped me a lot after my associations with
    ministry control freaks are:
    1. Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn/Jack Felton and
    2. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by Jeff VanVonderen/David Johnson.

    I would recommend these to all Christians to avoid a cult-like mentality.

  18. Julie says:

    What an empty legacy that some will leave behind. As an RN that has worked in an ICU for over 20yrs, I can assure you that you can certainly tell that you are caring for someone very, very special by the crowd of family present at the end of their life. Grandma’s or grandpa’s that are surrounded by their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren need no introduction. They have obviously shown and taught great love and stabililty and family value and have received great love and respect in return. Life is so short. Our time here on earth is so short. We often forget God’s command to love him with all of our mind and heart and then to love others as ourself.

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