Like father, like son. Chip off the old block. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
I never understood how much truth was behind these simple expressions until I became a father. Early on I became quite aware that my son, Lincoln, would mimic my actions. It started small as he learned to wave and blow kisses. But as he grew, I realized that the influence I had on his life was growing.
One morning as we were getting ready for church, I happened to wear a sports coat. I dressed him in his shirt and pants, but that wasn’t good enough. He kept saying “jacket,” “jacket like Daddy.” I put his blue blazer over his brightly colored polo shirt, and he became the proudest little boy in the entire world.
Our choices impact much more than our own salvation.
This copy-cat behavior can also be bad. The other day our little dog, Coco, pooped in the house. I pointed, scolding her firmly: “Bad dog!” Lincoln came right up beside me, pointed at Coco, and said, “Bad dog.” Again I was reminded that Lincoln is always watching, ready to imitate. Daily actions and behaviors that seem inconsequential have the power to shape his life, for better or for worse.
The Old Testament is replete with examples that portray the power of generational influence.
Baby Moses was found in the river by Pharaoh’s daughter (Ex. 2). The young princess agreed to let the boy’s mother raise him until he was old enough to enter the palace as a teenager. These early years became the foundation of Moses’ life.
Instead of seeking earthly riches and perhaps a chance to become pharaoh, Moses chose a life of wandering and hardship. He was God’s instrument to deliver his people from the most powerful nation on earth, part the Red Sea, receive the sacred law on Sinai, and lead millions of grumbling Israelites to the border of the Promised Land. It’s amazing to stop and think of the millions of people whose lives were changed through the faithfulness of one Hebrew mother, a slave at that.
But the influence exerted by the people Moses led was not so positive.
Even after watching God take down their Egyptian enemies through plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, eating bread that literally fell from heaven, and being led by a cloud pillar by day and fire at night, the Israelites still fixated on the impossibility of human circumstances as they sat on the border of the Promised Land (Num. 13; 14).
The result of their defiance was severe: instead of entering the Promised Land in a few days, the people spent the next 40 years wandering the desert. Every adult—except for Joshua and Caleb—died in the desert. Their children spent years in desert toil, years that could have been spent thriving in the land flowing with milk and honey.
Our choices impact much more than our own salvation. The question every parent, grandparent, teacher, pastor, or youth leader must ask themselves is: Am I leading my kids into the Promised Land, or away from it?
We all leave a legacy. What is yours?
Jimmy Phillips is executive director of marketing for Adventist Health Bakersfield.