Babysitting two grandsons Tuesday morning, I felt discouraged. Not with them; they were great. Not even with changing their diapers—although I’m a rank diaper amateur. I was discouraged because of a dissatisfaction with how my time was being spent.
I left the business world because God led me to something new. Now I sense a God-given, heart-gripping, compelling to write, to offer new perspectives on how our beliefs drive us.
And I feel sort of useless. Hmmm, not useless; I feel wasted (no, not that kind of wasted), like I’m squandering my time, letting it be filled with activities while the mission that drives my heart lies abandoned.
Interruptions intervened, friends had urgent needs, I preached sermons and spoke at retreats, storms dumped snow, taxes were complicated, and diapers stunk. My writing was rusting.
So I re-visited my priorities to sort out how my life can make a difference. Then I read,
[Our] battle is not against sin, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself (Oswald Chambers).
I’ve been more interested in my ministry to God than in God himself.
What is your legacy?
When I was eight, I thought only of what I’d do that afternoon. When I was eighteen, I thought of what I’d do four years later after university. When I was thirty-five, I thought of my retirement thirty years in the future.
We value the future only as our future dwindles. And now that I’m in my mid-fifties, I consider the legacy I will leave to future generations.
It’s good to consider our legacy. There is no value in dying with the “most toys.” There is only value in the influence our lives have had. Paul wrote, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of the time” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
We are designed to make a difference. Even a cup of cold water will be remembered forever. It’s a legacy. We can leave behind a word of encouragement, a financial gift to a needy cause, a life-changing insight, an open ear to a discouraged outsider. Or an attempt to write a blog on making the most of our time.
Each day we help (or hurt) the people we bump into. Each day we move others just a bit closer to (or a bit further from) knowing God. The legacy we bequeath is the impact we leave.
But legacies are spiritual
Someday, if there is no God, everything we’ve done will be lost, forgotten in the turmoil of future crises. How many of us know the names of our great, great grandparents? How many of us have heard of the kind words our eighteen-year old parents gave to their needy friends?
Someday, if there is no God, the sun will die, the world will grow dark, and every good gift we have ever given will be lost forever; the cup of cold water will be frozen in darkness along with every kind word every spoken. What we’ve done will no longer matter. Our legacies will die.
But if there is a God
Five hundred years ago, someone asked Martin Luther what he would do if he knew Jesus was returning tomorrow. He said he’d plant a tree. Because that tree would dance and sing like no tree you ever imagine (Isaiah 55). It was a legacy.
If we plant a seed of encouragement in friends (and foes) around us, it too will live forever.
If there is a God, our legacies belong to him. Some of us leave it to man, asking our leaders, “Just tell me what to do.” We bury our God-given talents six feet deep. Others say, “My life is epic.” Like the Levite and priest, we ignore the man lying in the gutter, beaten and bloody.
Let’s learn to “write” and offer cups of cold water, planting trees that will live forever.
Our legacy is rarely what we imagine
Last December, I prayed for clarity and dedicated more time to writing. (I still feel I heard correctly.) So I made a plan, committed it to God, and waited it to come to pass (Pr. 37:5).
And then he directed my paths. But those paths wandered lanes not on my map. Instead of more writing, I met thirsty people in need of a cup of cold water. Let’s make the most of our time, using the strengths God himself planted in us; let’s not bury even one God-given talent.
But let’s expect God to direct us in ways unimaginable. Let’s leave our legacy to God.
Allen Gardiner was a mid-nineteenth century missionary who planned to plant a mission in South America. On the way, he was shipwrecked. His companions suffered the painful death of hunger and thirst. Gardiner too finally succumbed, survived only by his journal. It closes with,
Young lions do lack and suffer hunger; yet they that seek the Lord shall lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10).
Beneath that verse he wrote the last words he would ever write, “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.” I’d be happy to leave half a legacy like that.
Let’s leave a legacy behind us, but not at the cost of leaving God behind; let’s remember to make the most of our time, but let’s forget attempts to make most of ourselves.
Let God work his legacy through us. It’s rarely what we expect; and there’s usually an unexpected diaper (or two) in the path.