What's Your Legacy?
Do you ever think about your legacy?
Do you contemplate and consider what it is that you will leave behind as a memorial when you exit this life?
I know that’s true for me. Even though I’m not anywhere near retirement, I find myself thinking fairly frequently about the future of my ministry and organization after I’m no longer active. I also think a lot about the values I want to pass on to my grandchildren.
In the narrowest sense, legacy refers to an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.
However, there’s more to legacy than tangible assets. There’s more to legacy than accomplishments and honors, books written, churches planted, buildings constructed. Here’s an example.
My grandmother’s star shines brightest in the small constellation of my childhood heroes. She influenced me like no other. Though she left me little in the way of earthly goods, one of my prized possessions is a scripture plaque that hung in her kitchen.
Of course, the plaque possesses no intrinsic value. In fact, it has been broken twice and carefully super-glued back together. No, her example of faith, courage in adversity, spiritual commitment and constant prayers for her grandchildren – daily and by name – that’s her true legacy to me.
Recently, I talked with a young mother who wondered aloud if her life amounted to much so far. She has left career and other goals behind in order to stay at home and raise her children.
I can understand her concern. In some ways, an exciting world of glamorous accomplishment seems to be rapidly passing her by.
Perhaps some pastors feel something like that themselves. If we don’t leave behind prominence and possessions, what was the value of our lives? (For that matter, even if you have achieved prominence and amassed possessions, are those the most important aspects of your legacy?)
My response to this young lady (and you, too, if you feel that way): the substantive, long-lasting legacy of any life is the impact we’ve had on others. Have you imparted and modeled godly living? Has your life been fruitful in the Spirit? Have you blessed others by your loving, joyful, peaceful presence?
Those are the things that matter.
Allow me to ask a few questions. I think they would be worthy of discussion in your personal journal!
Who impacted your life with a powerful, positive legacy? How will you pass that on to others?
Who are the individuals to whom you most would like to leave a legacy?
What exactly do you want them to retain from your life?
I will be following up on this topic in the next article or two here on the blog. We will take a deeper look at often overlooked aspects of the “DNA” you pass down to others: your ministry and emotional legacy.
So, my Grandma loved Billy Graham. She called my mother every time one of his sermons was scheduled for broadcast and urged her to tune in. In fact, I too think highly of him.
So it’s only natural that when I recently saw on a shelf somewhere Graham’s last book, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well, written in his 90’s, I picked it up for reading. His thoughts on leaving a legacy have particularly challenged me and I would like to leave one of his thoughts with you today:
“The greatest legacy you can pass on to your children and grandchildren is not your money or the other material things you have accumulated in life. The greatest legacy you can pass on to them is the legacy of your character and faith.”[i]
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[i] Billy Graham, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 119.