What kind of trail are you leaving?

August 13th 2020

Boy and man on a trail

It is not hard to figure out where a boy has recently been. The trail that a boy leaves in his wake is most assuredly one of havoc and mess. A boy leaves the cereal box and the milk (with the cap off) on the counter while he is out playing tag or riding bikes with his friends. Seldom does a boy’s dirty clothes actually make it into the laundry basket. I know that when I was a boy my brothers and I broke my Mom’s window with a baseball, knocked over shelves, ran through the house with muddy shoes, and almost never put a single thing away! Boys are impulsive, make and break promises on the same day, and leave a trail of carnage as they grow up. And while parents do not enjoy all these aspects of boyhood we know that to force them to be too clean, too orderly, and too refined might emasculate them and crush their spirits. Boys thrive on bouncing from one thing to another and catapulting their bodies (and anything not attached to the ground) into the air and at one another.

This raises the question, why would a boy ever want to grow up? Peter Pan and his lost boys of “Neverland” had this exact aim; to never grow up. Why not continue being a boy one’s entire life? Because as a boy gets older the trail of carnage grows larger and larger because the boy becomes more powerful. Once a boy is 11-13 years old he can impregnate a girl, at age 16 he can drive a car and potentially kill himself and others with this powerful tool. On the side of one section of road I drove most days was a sober memorial to two boys (16-18 years old) who were drunk and killed themselves when they wrecked their car at that site. If a boy becomes a father and then impulsively abandons the mother and child he will scar them both and stunt the emotional growth of the child. The quote most recently attributed to Peter Parker’s (Spiderman) Uncle Ben, “With great power, comes great responsibility," implies that there should be a direct correlation between power and responsibility. This concept originates from Luke 12:48B “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required: and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.“

However, just because one grows in power does not mean they grow in responsibility. The road of manhood challenges a boy to accept a commensurate amount of responsibility for the amount of power they are growing into. Ideally, society would limit the power of those who do not exercise discretion but you and I both know that is not the case. And thus I pose a rhetorical question to each of us:

What kind of trail are you leaving behind?

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself and God to gain a closer look into your heart:

  1. When you leave a place, is it better than when you arrived?
  2. Do you build things, use things, or destroy things?
  3. Do you give to the people in your life or only take?
  4. How would your current teacher or boss characterize your work ethic?

The initial inspiration for this article was a gang of young boys (ages 8-12) that my son has over for “club” every afternoon but then as I watched the destruction of American cities and monuments in the last few months I realized I was sadly witnessing grown boys in their 20-30s leaving a trail of carnage. We all leave a trail.

However, if I am faithful to my wife, I build trust in the heart of my wife and children. If I go back and pay for a candy bar my child snuck into their pocket after not discovering it until putting them in their car seat, I build trust and goodwill with the cashier and store manager. If I sacrifice my time, desires, and dreams in order to help grow the people that God has placed in my life I then start to leave a legacy. Whereas a boy leaves a trail of carnage, a man leaves a trail of legacy. The legacy of a good name, the legacy of financial blessing, the legacy of faithfulness, a legacy of obedience to God, a legacy of growing other men. My favorite quote on legacy is by the late Rich Mullins, the man who wrote the song “Awesome God”, when he shared,

"I hope I would leave a legacy of joy - a legacy of real compassion. Because I think there is a great joy in real compassion. I don't think that you can know joy apart from caring deeply about people - caring enough about people that you actually do something. But I have a feeling, if my life is motivated by my ambition to leave a legacy, what I'll probably leave as a legacy is ambition. But if my life is motivated by the power of the Spirit in me - if I live with the awareness of the indwelling Christ, if I allow His presence to guide my actions, to guide my motives, those sorts of things - that's the only time that I think we really leave a great legacy."

The beauty of legacy is that it is following in the footsteps of Christ. His legacy, more than 2,000 years later, is stronger than the day He died because He took responsibility for all the sins of the world and made a way for us to the Father. So turn around and look back at the trail you have left and consider if that is the trail you want to leave...