Passing the Baton
When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people. Genesis 49:33
In a relay race, one runner carries a baton for his or her allotted distance and then hands the baton off to the next runner. For the first athlete, the race is over, but for the second, it’s just beginning and the success of one, depends, in part, on the one who came before. This isn’t a bad metaphor for parenting. Our parents gave us our genetic code, and for most of us, they gave us a whole lot more than that. Whether we like it or not, we pass on the same to our children. What exactly are we handing to them?
Modern medicine believes that addiction is roughly 50% genetic and 50% environmental. It’s not quite that simple, but basically, my personal history puts my children at risk for addiction. This concerns me. I know my kids will have their struggles, but I don’t want them to struggle as I have. So, I’ve been purposeful in talking to my children about chemicals and their genetic inheritance. My wife and I can’t change the genes we’ve given them, but we’ve been responsible for the environment in which they’ve grown up. So again, we’ve been purposeful in trying to point our lives at God, teaching them to do the same.
Most parents would like to be able to look back on their lives, while looking forward to their children’s lives, with satisfaction, knowing they’d done right, passing on the best baton possible. This is illustrated in today’s passage as Jacob lay on his deathbed. Jacob gathered his sons to him, blessing or chastising each of them accordingly. Then, he gave a final command, insisting that he be taken back to the land of Canaan to be buried with his ancestors. Having done all this, he breathed his last. Jacob wasn’t perfect. Neither were his sons. He was, however, purposeful in passing the baton on to them.
Life is busy and often, our interactions with those closest to us are almost incidental. The lesson of Jacob passing the baton though, is that we must choose to be purposeful in our most important relationships. Though my kids are off in college, I still can (almost) daily continue to speak into their lives. My life is not yet over, but when I leave this world, I’d like to be able to look back, knowing that I gave them the best future possible. So, today, and every day, I must be purposeful in my interactions with them, first pointing my own life at God and then encouraging them to do likewise.