Next year, the men in my family will celebrate an important milestone: 25 years of going on a yearly camping trip together.
When it all started my dad and an uncle were there, but the rest of us were just boys. We idolized the grown-ups for their ability to put up a tent, to start a fire and cook over it. But, we really looked up to them for their quick-witted sense of humor. Even when we were little, we knew their jokes were hilarious, even when we didn’t fully understand them.
As the years went on and word got around that this was a heck of a good time, the list of participants grew. Uncles, cousins, even unrelated family friends eagerly awaited the next Hardesty camping trip. The catalog of stories and inside jokes grew, too. It is now a veritable tome, almost impossibly dense to the newcomer. We like it that way.
In the last several years, the camping trip has given way to the next generation. This year the weight of that reality was perhaps the most keenly felt. Only two men from the first generation were present. Mind you, we still had a blast. We grilled steaks and sausages, and smoked several heads of cabbage. We played cornhole and beach volleyball. We imbibed the occasional fermented beverage. Best of all, we spent hours seated around a roaring campfire, zealous to keep up a hearty coal base. And we just laughed.
But, we were still aware that if we wanted this splendid tradition to continue, we had to be intentional about its preservation. It was no one else’s responsibility but ours, and if we did not bear it then it would not be born, either in our lives or in future generations.
This is the closest thing to a “rite of initiation” that we have in my family. This is our legacy we’re talking about here.
Of course, I’m always looking for analogies to my spiritual life. And since I’ve returned to the land of Wi-Fi and running water, I’ve been filled with questions:
What if I cared about my faith as much as I cared about this camping trip?
What if, with my own witness, discipline, and habits, I was initiating the people around me, not into fireside humor, but into holiness?
What if my own passion and zeal for Christ was a roaring fire, compelling others to gather around and be delighted?
My faith gets a lot bigger when I realize it’s not supposed to end with me. Just imagine what state the Church would be in if the apostles had decided that their faith would end with them. I dare say the Church would barely even exist!
Back when I prepared parents for their child’s baptism, I would always remind them: Your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren, even your great-great grandchildren are depending on what you do today to cultivate your faith and pass it on. I still firmly believe that.
Even for a young, single person, a legacy of faith is not an irrelevant concern. You can’t wait until you’ve got your vocation figured out. You can’t wait until you’re married or until the kids are all grown up. What you do now – the decisions you make, the habits you form, the initiative you take to know Jesus, and the risks you take to share Him with others – is already shaping the impact you will have and the stories people will tell about you long after you’re in the ground.
Seize the moment and make your legacy a great one.
The men in my family are already planning on how we’re going to celebrate 25 years of laughter and friendship in the forest. And, as long as we stay passionate and intentional about this tradition, we can be sure that one day our children will join us around that roaring campfire.