The Legacies of Steve Jobs, Billy Graham, and Larry Osborne

I’m an Apple fan.  I’m typing this blog entry out on a MacBook Pro.  As usual, I read my news sites and blogs each day this week on my iPad while riding a stationary bike.  And my iPhone is within three feet of me at this very moment.

Steve Jobs has made my life better, more efficient, and more enjoyable in many ways.  But with all that said, I saw a quote from his biographer last week which has rattled around in my head ever since.  Here is what wrote –

“I wanted my kids to know me,” Jobs was quoted as saying by Pulitzer Prize nominee Walter Isaacson, when he asked the Apple Inc co-founder why he authorized a tell-all biography after living a private, almost ascetic life.

“I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did,” Jobs told Isaacson in their final interview at Jobs’ home in Palo Alto, California. 

“I wanted my kids to know me.”  That was one of Steve Jobs’ final wishes, yet he wanted them to know him through a book written about him after the fact rather than a life lived with them over the years. 

The highly respected Billy Graham, on several occasions, has noted similar feelings

“I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family…Sometimes we flitted from one part of the country to another, even from one continent to another, in the course of only a few days. Were all those engagements necessary?…I doubt it. Every day I was absent from my family is gone forever. Although much of that travel was necessary, some of it was not.”

So from Steve Jobs to Billy Graham a consistent theme appears – the male tendency to at times sacrifice family time for career time.

But why is this such a temptation?  I think it’s because all humans (and maybe particularly males) have a burning desire to matter.  We want to be significant, we want our lives to count, we want to leave a legacy.

Part of the reason we make different life choices is based upon where we think we will leave the greatest legacy.  Steve Jobs seemed to have chose his career.  Billy Graham suggested that he has struggled through his life finding balance between evangelistic ministry and family.   

What about you and me?  Do we believe that our lasting influence on this world will be felt through our friendships?  Our careers?  Our family?  Of course the answer isn’t cut and dried, but we would still profit from prayerfully considering it.

The fact of the matter is that God has chosen the family unit as one of the primary means of spreading the gospel, and in turn, one of the primary means that we can leave a lasting legacy.  Deuteronomy 6 doesn’t make much sense without this conclusion.  Paul’s commands to Timothy and Titus regarding qualifications of church leaders don’t make much sense unless family life is critically important to God. 

But if you’re like me, it will remain an ongoing struggle.  That’s why Larry Osborne’s example on this particular front encouraged me when I read it this week.  Yes, he’s a pastor, but replace his profession with yours and the message is still true.  I hope my children would be able to say the same when they’re older.

“I also currently have the advantage of an empty nest. I took a 13 year break from writing between my second and third book because I felt convicted that I needed to focus my attention on North Coast Church and my three kids. Once all the kids were in college, I took back evenings and weekends as my own and started writing again instead of heading off to an endless parade of their school, church, and athletic events.

By the way, it was a great decision. I have some books that will never be written, but I also have three grown kids who love Jesus, love the local church, and think Dad being a pastor is a cool gig.”

We leave legacies, Godly legacies, in various arenas.  I’m not making any hard fast declarations.  I’m simply discussing what appears to be true of Jobs and Graham, and what I know is true of me, while asking if it may be true of you as well. 

So here are the three questions I’ve been asking myself –

1. In the words of Graham – what are the family sacrifices I’m making that are unnecessary?
2. In the words of Osborne – what are the “books” unwritten that I’m choosing to shelf for the sake of my family?
3. In the words of Jobs – how do I want my kids to know me?  Through stories or through memories?

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