I’ll never forget it as long as I live.
When I was little, my family would travel from Alabama to North Georgia at the end of every summer to visit my great grandparents. My great grandfather, Wiley was his name, lived on a hillside off US Highway 27. He was the original DIYer. There was nothing he didn’t know how to do or fix, especially related to farming and gardening. His farm was like a walk through paradise.
In my memory, his hillside garden was as close to the Garden of Eden as I’d ever get. Fresh veggies. Apple and peach trees. Scuppernong vines. Even peanuts all grew on this perfectly terraced mountain of a hillside. But a spread like this wasn’t only attractive to humans. Deer, coyote, rabbits, and probably other wild things would find their way in for a free meal. It used to be that my “job” during our visits was to find all the spent shotgun shells and bring them back to the shed. I never saw him kill anything, but based on all the shells I found, he pulled the trigger a lot.
One day, my great grandaddy, along with my dad and I were hiking the hill; I with a canvas sack strapped to my hip for collected spent shells, my dad empty handed, and my great grandfather with his trusty shotgun slung over his shoulder. There on that mountain, something unexpected happened. My great grandfather held his arm out as if to say, “Stop! Quiet…” He raised his gun, stared at something I couldn’t see, and pulled the trigger. The barrel erupted with a sound so powerful that it seemed to pull the air out of my lungs.
Both he and my dad stood there pleased with the moment. I didn’t really know what was going on. My great grandfather broke opened the barrel, expelled the spent shell, and handed the gun to my dad with the words, “It ought to last a real long time.” It was quite simple and yet deeply ceremonious. I stood there, a boy of about 12 years, fascinated by it all. The passing down of an heirloom, an inheritance.
We walked down the hill, my dad now with the gun over his shoulder, and I as a witness to something spectacular. When we got to the house, my great grandfather stopped my dad and nodded at him knowingly. My dad looked at me and said, “Son, this gun of your grandaddy’s is yours. It belongs to you. It’s a fine piece of craftsmanship. I’m going to keep it until you’re old enough. But it’s all yours.” I was beside myself! I felt as though I’d just taken a giant step up into the ranks of manhood. Not because of what the gift was, but because it belonged my great grandfather and would one day be mine.
The day I graduated high school, years after my great grandfather had passed, my dad brought that old shotgun to me and a card with the words, “This is yours. Always has been. It ought to last you a real long time.”
The covenant God made with Abraham is much like an heirloom passed down. It was loaded with a promise, “All of this is yours.” The Law, given to Moses some 430 years later, acting as an amendment, offered protection or guardianship of the promise until Jesus, the only one worthy of the inheritance, could rightfully claim it. But what’s so special about this promised inheritance is that while Jesus was the only one worthy of it, he chose to distribute it to us. Jesus received it by right. But we receive it by faith. In fact, our faith in Jesus is what gives us the right to be called children of God.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1:12-13 (ESV)
I think it’s powerful to recognize that in the work of our redemption, God could have simply made us new creations and left us at that. It would have been enough to grant us citizenship into heaven. We would have all been grateful to not be left on the outside of the Kingdom. But he didn’t stop there. Instead, he chose to make us members of his family and heirs to the promise. We went from bystanders to children.
His act of adoption is the foundation for every adoption. A child without a family is brought into a home, given a name and granted legal status. He becomes a son, as though that was always the plan, with all the rights of inheritance and the responsibilities of sonship.
Through what Christ has done, we are heirs of everything that belongs to God. And through our earthly adoptions, our children, whether biological or adopted, become heirs to everything. There is no class of child. Before Jesus, we were at best citizen and servants of God, but now through his great display of love, we are sons and daughters, invited into everything without exclusion.
Dads, I know sometimes you fear you might not be able to love your adopted child the same as you would a biological child. But I am fully confident the capacity for the love you have in your heart has nothing to do with biology. Every day you choose to love, you choose to grant an inheritance to your children. You leave impressions of yourself in their hearts and minds.
Sure, I’ll remember the event of the passing down of my great-grandfather’s shotgun. But those aren’t the things that I remember about him. Our interactions, his laugh, his stories… those are the inheritance. Those are the legacy.
Maybe you don’t have a lot of stuff to pass along. Maybe you do. But if you continue to open your heart, the stuff that really matters will pour out. Your love will fill the walls of their hearts with an inheritance beyond measure. At the end of your life, you won’t have to hand down something physical because your children will know…
“All of this belongs to you!”
Article originally appeared here on June 24, 2017.