When I was a little kid (AKA four-years-old), I wanted to be a train engineer and spend my days driving a train. That’s what my dad did, and I wanted to be like my dad. (This is where you say, “Awww, isn’t that cute?”)

You can imagine my disappointment when I later realized my father was not that kind of engineer. For crying out loud, he sat at a desk all day! But then I discovered he spent his day drawing pictures: oil wells, oil equipment, and oil do-dads I couldn’t pronounce. Hey, I like to draw! I could do that. Another chance to be like my dad.

This describes perfectly the limit of my skills.

In high school, engineering found my Achilles heel: math, algebra, and anything to do with numbers. I have previously written about God’s grace of bringing a lovely accountant into my life, but in my adolescence I knew I was headed off to college to do something—anything—that did not involve numbers.

If I wanted to be like my dad, I’d have to find another way. And it was right there in front of me.

Sometime during my middle school years, God got a hold of my father. He had been a Christian for a long time, but now he was … well, different. As a teenager, I was right at home in the “clueless” department, yet I noticed the change in my dad. I saw him praying and reading his Bible. He began to talk about Jesus. He led his secretary to faith in Christ. (I recently read a letter one of my dad’s engineers wrote 20+ years ago to my mother after my father died; he expressed thanks for my father leading him to become a Christian.)

My father leading a Bible study group.

My father encouraged others to a deeper walk with Christ—and his influence was not lost on me. I don’t know if my father ever realized it, but he embodied the principle in Proverbs 22:6:

” Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.”

I’ve sought to live out that same principle with my sons, as have countless parents. Proverbs 22:6 is not a binding promise, but it is a principle that reminds us of our influence. We want to do all we can to influence those who come after us, but it comes down to their decision whether they choose to follow our lead.

  • King David lived a godly life, but his son Solomon only partially followed his example.
  • King Asa lived an obedient life, and his son Jehoshaphat followed him in leading a godly life.
  • King Hezekiah sought to please the Lord, but his son Manasseh lived an ungoldy life for many years before embracing his father’s faith.
  • King Josiah lived a godly life, but his son Jehoahaz didn’t.

I am not responsible for my sons’ decisions, but I am responsible for how I live in front of them. When my father stands before the throne of God, he will not hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” because his son went into full-time vocational ministry. He will hear those words because he chose to follow Christ and love Him with all his heart.

I was blessed because my father’s life and example made “the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10 NIV). I wanto to do the same for others.

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This post supports the study “Leave a Legacy” in Bible Studies for Life.