Last week was a weird week. By weird I mean emotionally and physically exhausting. I won’t get into the messy details but my wife’s grandmother passed away, and with the trip to WV where she was buried came some family baggage that hasn’t been completely worked through yet.
This trip got me thinking a lot about one’s legacy. I don’t know who came up with it originally, but I first heard it from a very wise college professor who’s teaching I sat under in Baltimore MD during my freshman and sophomore year of college. His name was Dr. Robin Underhill. He had a lot of good things to say, but one statement he made has stuck with me even now after being out of his classes for almost ten years. He said, “It’s not so important how you start, what’s really important is how you finish.”
Last week I sat at the memorial service of a woman who finished well. During her early years she was a far cry from a saint. Most of us are. To sit and visit with her friends and family though, you would never have guessed it. They spoke of her integrity, love of family, brilliance, gentleness, faith, and most importantly her dedication to her God. These were not simply moral platitudes uttered by a preacher from a pulpit, you can find those at any funeral. No, these were heartfelt whispers coming from the lips of people as they hugged each other. They were stories told around a lunch table while we ate taco’s. They were statements of truth about a woman who understood that it doesn’t matter how you start, it only matters how you finish.
Some times I worry about what my legacy is going to be. I don’t want to be “that guy.” You know the one I’m talking about. His or her story usually starts like this, “They had so much potential but…” “They were really charismatic and charming but…” The but is usually followed by some horrible moral failure that will ripple though the generations affecting many more than they could even imagine.
None of us wakes up one morning and decides we are going to ruin our legacy in some truly horrific fashion. I’ve never met anyone who has said, “I really hope that when I die people remember me for one particular dark part of my past.” Sadly this does happen to some people. They are remembered for, “that thing.” This usually does not happen suddenly. We know that it’s the little decision on top of little decision that usually leads to that cataclysmic implosion of our world that ricochet debris into other people’s lives and harms many people around them.
So how does one finish well? How does one leave a legacy that they could be proud of? That’s the question that kept ringing through my head as I drove back from this dear woman’s funeral this weekend. The answer I came up with is simple.
Stop worrying about your legacy. Start worrying about Christ’s.
As a Christ follower my legacy does not matter. If I’m doing what I’ve truly been called to do then all that matters is that I reflect the life of Christ well. When I realize this truth my legacy begins to fall in line with his, and let’s be honest; our actions on this earth, no matter how impressive, really do pale in comparison to Christ’s.
This is what made Aimee’s grandmother’s life so easy to celebrate. Despite her past, she cared more about representing her savior’s legacy then she did representing her own.
I pray that one day the same thing will be said of me. How about you?