Just one day can make the difference in a life wasted and one that leaves a legacy that will outlive us all.

By Dennis Rainey

Driving home one night after work I switched on the radio to catch the news. In an uncharacteristic moment of sincerity, the disc jockey made a statement that sliced through the fog of fatigue I felt from the day. “I hope you did something of value today. You wasted a whole day if you didn’t.”

His statement struck me abruptly. Maybe it was because I had just spent most of the day solving some of the problems of a growing ministry. Fortunately that day, I felt pretty good about how I had invested my time.

Or perhaps it was because of where I was heading. In ten minutes I would be home where one lovely lady and six pairs of beady little eyes would want and need my attention.

Would I do something of value with them tonight?

“It’s just one night, and besides, I’m exhausted,” I thought. Then I pondered how one night added to another, 365 times, adds up to a year. The nights and the years seem to be passing with an increasing velocity.

“I hope you did something of value today. You wasted a whole day if you didn’t.” It echoed in my thoughts as I drove through the darkness.

Five minutes more and I’d be home.

“I’ll bet there are other men like me who are really tired right now,” I thought. I wondered how they would respond to the question if they heard it.

A moment of pride struck me. “I bet I do ‘better-than-average’ with my kids,” I smugly concluded.

Another thought lingered in my mind: “Did God call me to be merely a better-than-average husband and father? Or to be obedient and to excel?”

Living above average

To be above average, all you have to do is beat the masses—a step ahead of the herd, so to speak. Not much challenge there.

“To be obedient and to excel.” Well, that means I’ve got to be a disciple … deny myself … take up my cross … and obey … even when I’m tired and whipped by the day’s draining events.

Is my audience man or God? Where do I want the applause? Heaven or earth?

One night. What will I accomplish? Will I waste it spending all evening in front of the television?

“It’s just one night.” Another night to build a legacy. What would it be?

I struggled over the lure of “just” one evening of selfishness—to do my own thing. But what if Barbara had a similar attitude? Then who would carry the baton?

What kind of heritage and legacy would I impart? Selfishness? Or selflessness?

“One minute, and I’ll be home.”

“Just one night. Lord. It’s just one night.” And then the same angel that wrestled Jacob to the floor pinned me with a half nelson as I drove into the garage.

“OK. OK. I give. You’ve got me.” Being a Christian parent is not always easy in this narcissistic culture.

Just one night

As the kids surrounded my car like a band of Indians whooping and screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” I was glad on this night I had made the right choice.

At supper, rather than just grazing our way through the groceries, we spent a few moments on nostalgia. All of us answered the question: What was the favorite thing we did as a family this past year?

And after supper I gave the kids three choices of what kind of memory my clan would make for that night.

1. Play Monopoly together as a family,

2. Read a good book together quietly, or

3. Wrestle on the living room floor together.

Which do you think they chose?

Three little sumo wrestlers grabbed my legs as they began to drag me into the living room. Dad was pinned by the kids. Mom was tickled by dad. And kids went flying through the air (literally) for the next hour. Our ten-month old even got in on the act by bouncing on me after she had observed the other kids in action.

Will the kids remember? Maybe, but I doubt it. We didn’t break anything to make it memorable.

Did they know I had struggled in the car? No.

Did I waste the evening? No.

You see, I’m doing my best, with the power that God supplies, to leave a legacy that counts. A legacy that will outlive me.

I was reminded of two things. First, I remembered what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15-17, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

And secondly, I remembered my dad. He was badgered into playing catch over and over again by one determined boy. I can still remember his windup and curve ball. Wow!

If you struggle with priorities as I do, then you might want to commit those verses in Ephesians to memory. I’m convinced none of us intends to become the fool Paul wrote about. It just happens.

“I hope you did something of value today. You wasted a whole day if you didn’t.”