Legacy, what is legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.
Hamilton the musical

One of the more popular lyrics from the hit Broadway musical¬†Hamilton is about legacy. This is only fitting since the entire production is about the legacy left behind by Alexander Hamilton when he unexpectedly died at the age of 47. When Hamilton left this life as a fairly young man, he left behind a multi-faceted legacy. He left behind a wife and children. He left behind a young nation that he helped to form. He left behind many things that he wished to do. Many of us have heard of Alexander Hamilton, but it’s not until you read about his life and ambition that you realize how remarkable he truly was. The question of historians, though, is whether Hamilton’s ambition and hunger for a legacy actually left his family with nothing in the end. Many historians even contemplate Hamilton’s death as a possible suicide due to an overwhelmed life. Death is tragic, but in many ways, a misspent life is even more so.

What do you want to leave behind?

I have known people who left millions to their loved ones.

I have known people who willed thousands of acres to conservation.

I have known people who left hundreds of thousands of dollars to their church.

My granny left behind nothing but a funeral bill and a million wonderful memories and lessons that helped shape the woman I would become.

I recently met an elderly woman in the sauna at my local gym who shared what she is leaving her loved ones. Instead of leaving money behind, she spends her savings each year to take her grandchildren on trips. In a rural area like Southeast Missouri, these kids often don’t leave their hometowns even to attend college, but with her own family and also with her church youth group she’s more interested in leaving behind memories. She wants them to know how big this world is–and that they can be a part of it.

A Garden You Never Get to See

Before Lin Manuel Miranda likened legacy to a garden, Jesus did. The Parable of the Sower ¬†(Matthew 13) explains that news of God’s kingdom is the seeds. Some remain on the surface and can be lost. Some of the seeds of God’s good news will be heard and met with excitement but true growth is impossible because they are not rooted in soil. Sometimes the good news is cast into weeds that compete for nutrients and sunlight, bad news and proclamations that win out in the end as the Words of the Lord die on our lips.

The seeds of God’s good news that are thrown into the good earth are the people who hear, take in the news, and then take action–growing, but also joining a community around it them. Every plant is part of an ecosystem that supports, gives, and takes. This is the nature of any living thing.

In this garden of life in which we are all planting, it’s important to persevere. If the farmer quits after one bad season, a flood, or a storm, his investments will be wasted. His land will be wasted. He will have nothing to show for his work up to this point. In the same way, if the farmer holds onto his seeds out of fear of failure, there will never be a harvest.

Unlike a farmer who gets to see the fruits of his labors each season, we may never get to see the garden that we work to sow. We may never see the lives we affect, but it shouldn’t stop us from trying.

Some parents don’t live to see their children grow into adults. We have no guarantees that they will live into adulthood or that we’ll live to see them reach it. But that doesn’t stop us from doing everything in our power to grow them properly.

Saving and hoarding the good news until we see fit to share it is a gross misuse of our time and lives.

Family Conversations:

If you haven’t yet had a conversation with your spouse or loved ones about the kind of legacy you want to leave behind, now is the time. You aren’t promised tomorrow.

  • If you have money to leave behind, what do you want to come of it? You can choose a nonprofit that fits your vision perfectly or create your own. WillPlan.org can help you make a plan that is as specific or as broad as you’d like.
  • What mission or vision do you have for your family that will benefit the generations to come? What changes can you make each day to move your family in the direction of the Kingdom?
  • Are there weeds entangling those whom you love? What types of hurts and traumas is your family dealing with? Is it possible that you’re cultivating and tending to the trauma (weeds) instead of watering your own plant to allow new growth?
  • What memories or lessons are you leaving behind? Traditions and values will go on after you–good or bad. Are the traditions and values that you’re cultivating in your garden working toward that end?
  • What types of things can you implement right now to affect change while you’re living?
  • What kind of person do you want to be? If your only goal is to achieve riches, you will only leave riches behind. If your only goal is beauty in this life, this will pass away with your body. If you spend your life planting seeds of Hope in Jesus, however, some of these seeds will go on to produce plants. And these plants will produce seeds all on their own, lending life to other living things and lasting many generations to come.