Legacy, Newborns and That Moment When Your 2-Year-Old Says “Dang It!”


Jesse Mahannah

August Joseph Mahannah. Sarah and I had decided on the name when we found out we were pregnant the first time. But God blessed us with a girl for our first child and we knew, especially I knew, that we loved Elizabeth Kate for a girl. I loved the name Elizabeth because it is Sarah’s middle name and my hope for our family was that if we had a daughter she would grow up to be like her mother. But August Joseph was perfect for a boy. Sarah’s grandpa August Kubish passed away the day before our wedding. August was a pastor and a patriarch to a great big friendly family. Even though I didn’t know him well, his legacy in his children speaks for itself. It’s an honor that my son carries his name.

Joseph was my grandpa on my dad’s side. He was a World War 2 veteran who lost his two brothers to the war. He was the last Mahannah boy. My grandmother has told me many times of how my great granddad and my Grandpa Joe had high hopes that Joe would have a boy to carry on the Mahannah name. Joe ended up having a girl. And then another girl. And then finally a son. That son, my dad, had four sons and one girl. The legacy of the Mahannah name lives on through those boys and my grandma has told me many times, Great Grandpa Doc would be proud. As one of those Mahannah boys, I’m proud of that and it was an honor to name my first son Joseph.

Legacy is a powerful thing. You may not know me or my family at all but I’m guessing the themes that run through the paragraphs above strike a chord with you. Maybe for you it’s the legacy of your family or maybe it’s the legacy of someone else who stepped up and made a difference in your life somehow.

I think the reason why this idea of legacy has been bouncing around my head like an echo since the birth of my son and the reason why it seems to resonate with most people is because we all intuitively know that we’ll leave a legacy of our own. So then, as I lay awake at night in my tired-sleep-deprived-parent-of-a-newborn-state I find myself contemplating, what’s my legacy?

This idea resonated with me at our recent Baby Dedication at NewSpring. I stood up with about 50 other families who were dedicating themselves to raise kids who love God and love others and I thought, “This is my dedication to leave a legacy that matters.” As Sarah and I prepared for August’s dedication, we discussed what we hoped for our kids.

We want to raise a strong daughter who’s compassionate and loving. We want to raise a humble man of God who is honest and holds tight to his integrity. We want both of our kids to be brave and courageous enough to follow God anywhere. We want them to passionately love God and love others.

I’m guessing if you’re a parent, an aunt, an uncle, or if you’re invested in the lives of kids as a volunteer for KidzWorld or another ministry, you want that for the kids you impact. But at the risk of getting too personal, another haunting thought creeps into my mind. If I want these things for my kids, they need to be found in me. Along with this realization comes a second and more powerful one. Just as my children will learn respect from me, they’ll learn disrespect as well. In my moments of courage, they might take note and but surely the same is true for my moments of cowardice.

Every parent has this fear, right? Every parent hopes they won’t mess it up? A whole lot of being a parent is praying that your kids don’t screw up and praying that you don’t screw up your kids! This is where I find that my legacy, my most powerful legacy, has less to do with my character, it has less to do with my strengths or weaknesses, but rather everything to do with my faith.

This summer we’re talking about Faith with the kids in Route 252. I love how it’s defined, too. We’re defining it for our 1st through 4th graders as: Believing that what Jesus did can change me. At the end of the day our Faith comes down to one person, Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the cross and in His resurrection. The story of Jesus changes everything and it has changed, indeed it was the only thing that ever could or ever would change me.

That’s my legacy. I don’t have to be the perfect parent (my strongly opinionated two-year-old diva of a daughter could tell you that) and I’m not even a good parent; the goodness in my life and in my parenting comes from the work of Jesus in my life and in my parenting. There’s a verse we go over in Baby Dedication and I think it sums up this idea perfectly for us struggling and maybe even scared parents. It comes out of Deuteronomy 6.

Sorry to jump around on you but this is story is actually pre-Jesus showing up. Deuteronomy is a great book where a man named Moses, is leading a group of people called the Israelites. The Israelites were God’s chosen people, and “spoiler alert” if you haven’t thumbed through the rest of the Bible, the Israelites were a big part of God’s plan to bring Jesus on the scene. Moses is getting a whole generation back on the right track and telling them how to have a great relationship with God. He starts off in verse 2, talking about legacy–talking about what the lives of Israelites kids and grandkids can be like years down the road. Then he gets to the specifics in verse 5 with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” By the way, Jesus would say later this was the most important thing that when we love God, we love others. All great love relationships start with trust, which is why I mad–and maybe you made–a decision to start loving God by trusting in Jesus.

But as Moses gets to verses 7 through 9, he says something about this “Loving God” commandment and the others that follow, something about the aspects of their faith that initially might sound intimidating but in the end I find quite freeing. “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Moses names nearly every possible scenario. Not just church, but like…everything…all the time? I don’t know about you but most days I don’t feel like Super Dad let alone Super Duper Bible Dad. How am I supposed to teach my kids all about faith all the time? But I think that’s the beautiful thing about legacy. That’s the beautiful thing about faith. This summer will have an adventure theme in 252 to go along with our Big Idea of Faith. We’ll talk about how Faith is a journey. Faith isn’t a PART of your life, Faith SHAPES your life. The verses in Deuteronomy don’t mean you have all the answers, which is great because honestly I don’t. It just shows that great legacies are made by the journeys of faith that both shape my character and produce respect, honesty and integrity but also the journeys of faith that bring me through the valley of my own failure and into the comfort of God’s amazing grace.

So in conclusion, as I try to stitch all these ideas together, the thing that I rest in is that my kids may inherit my firm conviction that “honesty is the best policy” and my daughter might pick up the bad habit of saying “Dang-it!” when she stubs her toe (if you’ve been a parent of a two-year old, you know that you literally can’t say ANYTHING without it being repeated). But at the end of the day, the legacy I know I can leave for my kids and that I pray they adopt into their own lives is that Jesus changed the world and He changed me.

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