I have thought about my funeral off and on all of my life. More sophisticated people refer to it as one's "legacy." which is probably a more accurate term. What can I look back on my life and say that I did or produced? I want a long list. I want there to be a lot of photos and awards the night before the funeral at the showing that people can see as they mill about, waiting to respectfully view my peaceful body in repose. Possibly they will shed a tear and then go for the lemonade or coffee that has been set out for the mourners. The viewing is when people get the chance to talk and remember. At the funeral the pastor and the person who gives the eulogy are the only real speakers. My legacy is only really on display in the lobby at the back of the viewing area of the funeral home and I guess I want it packed.
I have been to a lot of funerals in my life. It seems like everyone dies. I have heard all lengths of eulogy and attended a lot of viewings. When the casket goes into the ground or the body returns to be cremated, everybody says the same thing; "It was a nice service." I guess that's better than them saying; "Well that was crap." I went to a funeral of a relative a year ago whose lifetime accomplishments for his country, community and church were truly inspiring. After a week had passed, I could only remember a handful of them. In a month, remembered just one or two. In five years I will probably struggle to remember his name.
What a sad thought- that your whole life with all of its accomplishments and struggles would be forgotten by those who knew you in less than a decade. All that you built and had, including the memory of you, would be dusty little pieces in the minds of people who would themselves be in boxes as well one day. It would take a generation, no more than two, and any memory of you would surely be gone.
This whole idea at first really shook me. What about my list? I've done some cool stuff that few people have done. I've been all over the world, raised three great kids and had a great marriage. I've written books, ran companies, helped the poor and needy, supported the building of churches and I'm just warming up, the list will go on! This is a little infuriating when the idea that all of what makes me up and identifies me does not really matter. It just gets hollowed out in a box somewhere. Please do not start singing the refrain from the old Kansas song, "Dust in the Wind," I get it.
If the list is not what matters. If the accomplishments are not permanently important except for the pleasure of the personal experiences, then what is? Vince Lombardi is famous for saying, "If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do we keep score?" Ribbons, trophies, certificates, and gold medals are the reasons we work so hard and compete. Transfer it to other areas and it is the same. Promotions, houses, cars, and report cards, the principle is the same.
God does not measure us by earthly scorecards and that is not very comforting.
Legacies are His. Jesse's legacy of David's house that then came true in Jesus is not Jesse's legacy or David's, it's God's(Romans 15:7).
What is your legacy? Is it your love for Jesus as exemplified through your life? Does it show up through your example to your family, friends, foes, and everyone you know and will never know? Generosity is one of those legacies as it reflects on the glory of God and His provision (Matthew 7:7-8, Philippians 1:19-20). The training of your children and the living of your life are as well.
I have watched many people go in the box, be carried to the hearse, and put in the earth, their lives forgotten. Their legacies are children, communities, love, and souls saved. Is this because of them? Well, as the proverb states, they came into this life with nothing and they leave with nothing (Proverbs 11:7). Everything is provided through the use of the gifts and circumstances of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' gift as our great counselor who worked in our life whether we see it or not. The legacies are thechangesthat are left, not the people. The legacies last as the perpetual impact shown in the glory of God. The people become two-dimensional memories and then one-dimensional plaques.
A small service is fine, a fast sermon is great, and a eulogy can be skipped. The legacy is not in the service or the collection in the lobby at the funeral home. Those will all be forgotten. The legacy will be left in the lives changed through Jesus and He will keep score (Acts 14:15). It's the only scorecard that matters and most people won't see it anyway. The legacy will be left in the lives you have touched and Jesus has changed. He will keep score.
Ok, it is time to take a breather. Everything written above just takes you down a toilet bowl of despair. Let's grab onto the Lord and He will lift us out of these 6 feet of hopeless dirt.
First, the gifts, talents, and opportunities to make a difference anywhere were gifts from Him. They are not accidents (2 Corinthians 2:14)! They are all part of His plan, so, there has to be a reason.
Second, we do not know who are influenced by us through God (Isaiah 55:8). If you want an example, think about the Internet. Through video interviews, YouTube™ provides the stories of how amazing people's lives are changed through a kind word, example or achievement that inspired a person.
Third, the glory of God! We do all things for the glory of God. What we are and what we accomplish are to bring glory to Him (Philippians 2:11, 1 Corinthians 10:31).
Fourth, God wants us to have fun! He created us to enjoy what he has built; it is up to us to do so wonderfully (Ecclesiastes 5:19).
The point is that the legacy is His. The gifts are His. Yes, we have to work hard and strive and sacrifice. You can do it for His glory or not. It does not matter. We all die. We are all forgotten at some point. We do not keep the legacy that carries forward, it is His.
My identical twin brother, Tim, died two weeks ago from Stage IV lung cancer, and no, he wasn’t a smoker. He was just genetically "unlucky." I've been tested and I don't have the same genetic problem, I got the epilepsy gene and he did not. Go figure. He lived a life of great impact. Almost five hundred people were at his Visitation and Celebration of Life, (Question: If it is a celebration, why do so many people cry?). Tim was involved in ministries with prisoners, small group study couples, men who felt their faith was at risk, bible studies, and an elder in his church. Every person at the services told me of the impact he had on their lives. I loved Tim as only a twin brother can. Yet, his actions were not whom he was except when they reflected the glory it brought to God. He would agree that the ripples he created would not have his name on them within a couple generations. His answer to me was simple, "I'm going home to see my Father. This dying part is a painful going away party before the trip that everyone else will make."