What Legacy Have We Given Our Children?
In 1986, I became father to a beautiful new-born baby boy. It was the answer to my prayer. I had asked the Lord for a baby and He had chosen to send me down the road of adoption for the blessing for which I had so long asked. I consulted a Christian adoption agency that placed a packet in my hands to fill out before the process could start. I was filling out the adoption questionnaire and reached a topic to which I had not given any thought. The application asked me to write my preferences as to what characteristics I would prefer in the child I was to adopt. the question made me pause for a long moment. I had not considered what type of child, only a healthy baby. After only a quick moment of thinking on what the Bibles says, I wrote that I wanted a healthy baby, any race, and would be willing to take mild handicaps, should that be what was offered first. It was not that long after, I received the call. A sweet young birth-mother had read my profile and accepted me as the father of her new-born baby son. She had prayerfully decided she could not raise her boy on her own and would trust God to be there for him and trust me to be his dad. When I reflect on that decision even now, I see the magnitude of it. I see the selflessness of it and I love that mom more than words can say.
I had considered myself a well-read Christian man that understood God had created human beings as one race, with all its variety of color and physical characteristics. I knew from reading Scripture that God had blessed all races of men and died for them all. But I am no fool. I also knew I must acknowledge another reality. I was not as yet living in heaven with a God that created all and in which there is no bias, I was living on this sinful earth. Perhaps in the "sweet by and by" all would be smooth for my baby, but he and I would still be living here, on this planet, in the "nasty now and now." I knew that should I become the father to a child of color, I would have to educate myself and allow this child to see himself and the world as I myself never had to, as a black man. I could not expect my son or daughter to see things as I had seen them, trying to be an idealist and giving the best effort to be "color-blind" as the saying goes. I could put my head in the sand and not see the problems my child would face, or I could learn enough to be a strength to my child when others may hurt him out of ignorance or even generational hatred.
I began learning right away. My child, who smiled at me the moment he was placed into my arms, immediately became my son, mine. I knew I would die for this little man should I be called to do such a thing and I would give my heart to him and patiently wait for him to give his heart to me in exchange. Of course, babies need daddies and my son bonded with me and we became inseparable. The same happened with my daughter a year later. I made mistakes of course, but my self-education was helping to make me see and understand the vast cultural differences between how I was raised and how a child of color has to be raised in this evil world. The following poem is my feeble attempt to write some of the feelings I had when I began to look at the problem of man's inhumanity to man and the divisiveness a small thing like skin tone brings in this fallen world full of ignorant sinners.
The conclusion to which I arrived from all my life: As long as God approves of us and our life path, as long as a man cares to stand for right, he will leave a legacy that no one can take away from him, for it is made of incorruptible treasure and held for safe-keeping by God Himself.
by Robert Smith ("No Body")
The Spirit moved me, so without delay
To the attic went I, with mop and spray,
Since I'd moved in, I'd wanted to clean
The dusty old attic, to a sparkling sheen.
Nearly finished, I saw something amiss
A loose board that I'd need, a hammer to fix,
Upon closer inspection, there
was something inside
Some papers wrapped up, in a piece of rawhide,
Perhaps it was a treasure, of some worth to me -
On the first page I saw, was a family tree,
I glanced at it first, then had a surprise,
Something I saw, brought tears to my eyes,
There were names that I saw, in this family line
I realized from them, the family was mine.
Grandpa was on a branch, drawn with care
Grandma too, and uncle was there,
And next to great-grandpa, a flower was drawn
And a note was written, "Shot in his lawn"
His daddy was there, on the page little higher
A note said, "Lynched by a mob, then set afire"
I stared at the words, till tears blurred my sight
First I was sad, then I wanted to fight!
After a while, I found the strength to read on,
A piece from a newspaper, called "The New Dawn"
"Justice was done, in our fair town today
There's one less darky, to get in our way,
He put his black hands, on
the Mayor's sweet wife
He paid for that act, by losing his life."
The bile churned, deep in my throat
I heaved and coughed, and started to choke,
But I was pulled to read, all that I could
My mind said I couldn't, but I knew that I would,
Written in the scrawl, of a shaky weak hand
The truth was written, by the wife of that man.
"Mah good man, he die today,
De men in de town, dey tuk him away
He do some errunds, all cross town
He see de mayah's wif, she almos fall down
He retch out his han', and he
keep her up steady
Dey beat mah man down, and
got a rope ready
Afta he die, dey burn him wid fire
Don't wanna go on, Lawd I so tire."
For hours I sat there, papers in hand,
I wished for some moments,
I was some other man,
As I was putting, the papers away
A sheet on the floor, all tattered and gray,
I could readily tell, as I picked up the leaf
It was the most read, had
absorbed the most grief
"Deese de las words, mah man say
'Fo dose wite devils, tuk him away -
"Gawd I dun, all dat you say
Now it my time, to go far away
Tak care o' my fam'ly, I dun all dat I cud
Show'd em dah Savyah, jus like I shud
If I cud rites, I rite me a letta, I say
Fatha fugive dem, dey don' no no betta."
For the moment the sadness,
was too much to bear,
I folded the papers, with love and with care,
My ancestor died, for doing what's right
But the injustice he fought, was still mine to fight,
He was God's servant, saved just like me
Battling Satan, in his quest to be free,
I sat there quietly, and started to pray
And God slowly drained, all my anger away,
I realized a gift, had been handed to me
I found a hero, and a grand legacy
A man of character, did what was right
He loved the Lord, with all his might
He loved his family, and his enemies too
Now that gave my mind, something to do
What would I have done,
had I been in his stead?
I knew what I would do, and I hung my head,
I wouldn't have died, with such dignity
Praying to God, for my family,
I don't think I could love,
my enemies that way
Knowing they would kill me,
when they took me away
I would fight, and probably think only of me
I'd miss passing on, this legacy.
So I made a vow, to my God above
To always show, that kind of love
And I'd pass on this gift, that was given to me
And pass on the gift, of his legacy.
This is a fictionalized account based on a true story that was repeated so many times in our country's history. I don't know what emotions this stirs in you, but there was a whole range of emotions that ran through me. I wrote it, but as it was finished on the page it seemed to take on a life of its own.
Any person that is a descendant of this man in the of the poem above should realize the legacy that they have been handed. The man, a true hero, died so needlessly. I understood any anger, resentment or vengeance that a person may feel just reading such an account. The helplessness that one would feel in their mind would be like you were watching a horror show on a home movie reel.
It slowly began to dawn on me that I, a white man, all of whose family are from the south would be part of a legacy also, but perhaps from the side that had perpetrated this atrocity. My ancestors could have been the ones for whom this godly man prayed. I realized also that God heard that prayer and some of the people's hearts there may have been affected or changed. Some of those individuals would begin learning about the God that this man cried to, and then would become true believers in Jesus after God worked in their hearts. This means that not only did this man present a legacy to his family, but to all those for whom he prayed and that changed because of him. This man's love of God and his neighbor, helped to open doors to the hearts of men and allow God to work miracles.
How does a man love like that? How do you step outside yourself and give your life for the sake of others? Where does such strength come from? The Bible says, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jesus said, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do." And this dear man mimicked his Father and said the same as Jesus did all those centuries ago.
What was he asking of the people around him that were about to take his life? In just a few words to God, he was asking the people to remember that every act has consequences, so beware. He was saying that someone was watching that would hold them accountable one day. He was saying that they should consider where their future home will be and get right with God before it was too late.
If he had time to reason with the crowd, I believe that this hero would have told each person there that all men are sinners and that in the eyes of God all stand in condemnation. He would say that Jesus died for them all so they would not have to go to hell. Jesus paid each man's sin debt if only a person turns to God.
I beg of you to let this man's story effect you as well. Examine your heart and see whether you know Jesus the way he did. Receive Him as Savior and know the kind of love that he knew.
Pray this prayer: Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and there is nothing I can do to pay for or anything I can do to pay for the sin that separates me from You.. But You came to earth in a man's body and died for me. You paid for my sin debt so I don't have to pay with an eternity in hell. Please Jesus, forgive me of my sin. I renounce my life as I have been living it and turn from living my life my way to living for You, because You are the only Way of salvation. I believe that you died, were buried, and rose again for me. Please save me right now. Thank You for hearing and saving me. I pray this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.