Do you ever think about what kind of legacy you’ll leave behind when you depart from this life? Will your legacy as a man have cultivated a multi-generational commitment to that which you spent a lifetime caring about? Will the people who remain when you are gone be a testimony to that which you believed in? Will you leave a heritage? Or will you simply leave an inheritance?
We at Faithtree have been thinking about these questions a lot. We want to know what men must do each day to design the kind of life that will leave the kind of legacy Christian men desire to leave. What actions do men need to take to refuse a legacy that is created by default?
Perhaps one of the most important ways we can design well is to be intentional about what we seek to design. Is financial security our goal? Maybe we are interested in leaving dozens of offspring that bear the family name. Some may seek to leave generations committed to an active life in the Church. Whatever the design looks like, one thing is for sure: a man who is intentional about naming and pursuing his legacy will have a much higher likelihood of achieving it.
Those of us at Faithtree believe that a man can greatly advance in his pursuit of that design by first studying those people who have done it really, really well. What have the “pillars” of legacy-building success done to design a legacy worth leaving? We have specifically studied leading men; those men that protect, provide for, and have created generations of faithful servants of Christ and His church.
One such man was a giant of the Antiochian Archdiocese. Wade Abraham of Grand Rapids, Michigan was one of those pillars we studied. Wade Abraham, like his brothers Abe and Jim before him, spent a lifetime cultivating a legacy that is worth close examination.
Here are a few things we learned from Wade:
- Wade put his spiritual armor on. He focused first and foremost on Christ and His church. This manifested itself in an unyielding commitment to be in the Lord’s presence at every opportunity. In fact, his priest shared that Wade, at 92 years old didn’t miss a single Lenten or Holy Week service the very week he died. He went to the Lord’s house to be near his God. He bred that in his children, too. He knew that hearing a podcast, reading an inspirational book or listening to the radio is no substitute for being in the House of God.
- Wade believed in the old John Wooden idea of “the star of the team is the team.” He focused deeply on family. If one of them won, all of them won. If one of them hurt, all of them hurt. And his deep, abiding love for them kept multiple generations close together. Watching his family come together intentionally and often exemplified how Wade and his wife created their family to behave. The Abraham team was the star of the Abraham team.
- Wade was all about hard work. He focused on the hard work it takes to make life and faith happen. Nothing came by default. It was all by design. That meant all the little things counted, and he did those little things again and again and again to insure that the big things happened. He built his legacy one decision at a time.
Many Orthodox Christians didn’t have the opportunity to meet Wade before he entered into eternal rest. However, the fruits of how he lived his life are manifest in those who survive him. You can see in his offspring that which he spent a lifetime pursuing.
St. Paul wrote to Timothy about that kind of intentional pursuit. Paul had literally spent himself in service of Christ and, as we know from his writings, was not fearful of death. Paul couldn’t wait to meet his Savior. (1 Corinthians 15:55)
As Paul pondered his legacy, he made three statements about it. He “fought the good fight”. He “finished the race”. And most importantly, “he kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
The same could be said about Wade. He fought the good fight. He finished the race strong. And most certainly, he kept the faith. What is remarkable is that he has set up generations after him who are prepared and engaging in doing the same.
Designing our legacy is one of the ‘manliest’ acts we can pursue. This is especially true if it includes the intentional pursuit of God, and relationships with Him and others. If we put our spiritual armor on, turn our focus to others and work hard, like Wade Abraham, we can lay the foundation for generations to come. We build our legacy, not by default, but by design.