“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” George Eliot.
Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance. Proverbs 1:5.
In these uncertain economic times, we may not leave a healthy financial legacy to our children. But something we can leave to our children or to others within our sphere of influence is...influence.
I think about this a lot, especially since my children are young adults. When they were toddlers, elementary students and pre-teens, the hope of parental influence was forming, vibrating. But, there came a day—quite recently—when I realized that the future is NOW. Scary thought. I realize there is so much more I could have done better, could have prayed for, could have worked toward.
I hope I will have influenced them—as imperfect as I am—to live lives that honor God and that offer hope and encouragement to others. Imperfect influence can work a good work. It has to. My dad was my imperfect influencer. He was a man who was honest about who he was—a man who loved God, books and working in prison ministry, and who was also a recovered alcoholic introvert who fought depression and heart disease.
Whenever I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, I can hear my father, whose heart condition greatly affected his quality of life, quoting his favorite life-giving scripture: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
My father had a corny sense of humor and kept us laughing, but he was not the life of the party. Working a crowd or attention-getting was not his style or preference. He also wanted to understand the workings of the world and he read about science, history, religion and current events. Both the Bible and the Wall Street Journal were in his hands every day. He was not a smooth talker when it came to politics: he had strong opinions and tempers could flare. But where he excelled was in telling others how God had changed his life, healed him and set him free—that was his greatest joy. He told me that God was real, and I believed him because I saw real, evident change, and then I believed in God.
Despite the many obstacles life—and people—threw at him, my father persevered and pressed on, very much emulating the words of Paul: “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
My father entered heaven in 2005, but his influence thankfully remains earth-bound. Very often, I can hear his encouragement, his honesty in his struggles, his expressed faith, his bad jokes. And I smile. My imperfect influencer.