Are you clear that you are leaving a legacy? Most people, if they think about legacy at all, think that they will leave one, but the reality is that we are all leaving a legacy day by day. Do you know where you are in the process of living life and where you want to go? You know, the old saying “If you don’t know where you’re going any path will do” is true. The great potential in many lives is wasted because it is never considered. I believe that it was Socrates who said “An unexamined life isn’t worth living.”
To illustrate, I want to share in an imaginary exercise with you, an exercise that can be especially meaningful to you young men and women. It may seem a bit morbid for a minute but hang in, this exercise can change your life for the better forever.
I want you to imagine for a few moments that you are attending your own funeral. Imagine that you can’t be seen or speak but that you can see and hear all that’s being said .
In your mind’s eye, see yourself in a quiet room where there are four groups of people standing sort of together talking quietly around your casket as you observe them.
In one group there is your family; spouse, children, maybe parents, etc,
Next are those you work with, around, and for.
Then there is a group from your church or the congregation that you identify yourself with.
Finally, you see a group of friends and neighbors.
The question is; if this were real, and today was the day, what would you hope each would be saying about you? Now that it’s too late to change or alter what you have left as a legacy, what do you hope they could say, being honest of course. Would there be a hurt that you haven’t dealt with or some love unshared? A wrong not set right? If so it’s too late now.
(In the interest of saving space I am going to address this to the men but everything I am saying is intended to be and is applicable equally to women as well)
Would you want to hear your wife say, “He was the best, most caring, and kindest man! My best friend and lover. An example to me of all a Christian man should be.” Could she say that today? Could your kids say “My dad was a great dad, my hero, the best He was always there when I needed him and never missed a game or event I was in!”
And your colleagues, what about them? Would you want to hear, “He was the best and most skilled worker! He was diligent and his integrity stood way above the crowd! I’d go to war with him anytime! I could see his values in the way he lived!”
What do you think your friends from church would say? “A great man of God? An example of a true disciple who walked the talk every day? Both faithful and fruitful?”
Finally the neighbors. Do you know them? Could they say “What a great friend and neighbor! He was always ready to help and share, a great guy.”
Could they say those things, or similar things now? If they can, what will you be intentional about to see that they can continue? And if in your heart you know that they couldn’t, maybe not even come close, what are you going to do to change between today and that day that will allow them to? Do you care? Care enough to actually do something? To actually be intentional?
One thing is for sure, we will all face that day though we don’t know when it will be, it is coming for each of us, it will be. Another thing is that the only person who can really influence our legacy, which is what we are talking about here, is us. And we can only do so by taking control of the things in life that we can control and acting on them in a way that will produce the desired result. Even then we can’t be responsible for everyone responding the way that we would like but all we can do is all we can do. How others respond is up to them. But we can do what we can do! There are three clear steps to legacy.
Step One is to accept personal responsibility for acting on what we can control that produces the result that we want. “If it is to be it’s up to me.”
Step Two is to decide what the result that we want looks like. If we would have those we care about and live with and among to remember us in a positive way we need to live the values that will allow them to do so.
Step Three is to prioritize those things that we do each day based on their value to the end result that we want and be sure to do the most important things first. Priorities are what we do, everything else is just talk. Our legacy will be the result of many, many little things done moment by moment each day. Choices we make about the things we can control.
For Christians, while the principles remain the same, there is a much greater dimension and importance to this discussion. We have an eternal destiny and a legacy of our lives on Earth that we will experience in heaven forever. The great goal of a believer is to live and finish their race in such a way that Jesus Christ will be able to say “Well done!”
The beauty of this exercise is that the things that will allow Jesus to say “Well done!” will work best for all the others we care about as well. All His ways are always best for every relationship.
It is extremely helpful to write out our values and plans with specific points to use for measuring our progress, to make a personal Statement of Purpose. There is something special that happens when we write things, we tend to remember them better and also the process brings clarity.
You know, in the final analysis our legacy is and will be our choice. God has made all we need to be all He wants and plans for us freely available to us. We do have to be proactive and choose to pick up the tools and use them though, He won’t do it for us.
Just think what the world, that which we touch and by extension the whole world, would look like if everyone would choose to live this way, especially those of us who say we are Jesus’ younger brothers and sisters. Jesus in and through His family (us) is the hope, the only true hope, for the world. Plan to make 2010 the best year of your life. Be intentional. Use the three steps and change your legacy from accidental to sensational! Happy, blessed, and fruitful New year!