What is Your Legacy?
You are receiving the email a bit later than usual. That’s by design. Saturday afternoon I attended the memorial service of someone I have known for a long time, Jodi Dennis. I felt certain that “celebration” would cause me to be reflective and I would want to share some of those thoughts with you. I was right.
Here’s some background:
I don’t remember the circumstances surrounding the first time I met Jodi. I do know I met her through church. Like many others I immediately noticed her. Jodi possessed a big, warm, and inviting smile. She had apparently heard me teach, so she opened our conversation with an introduction as irresistible as her smile. “Hi. I’m from Iowa.”
As time passed our lives continued to crisscross. She and her husband, Tom, remained a constant at church. I had the privilege of being with them in moments of great happiness and through some of life’s most difficult challenges. While it is true adversity builds character, it is equally true adversity reveals character. What Jodi’s tough times revealed was a strength and joy that were a result of faith in her Lord, a faith grounded in His Word.
My daughter Sarah and I visited Jodi a few weeks ago. Physically Jodi was noticeably weaker than our previous visit just three weeks earlier. But oh, that smile. Once we got settled, she asked me how I was doing. Quickly I turned the question back on her. She gave me her medical update. It was not very promising. Jodi was aware of her condition and she understood death was near. There was no denial in her mind. Yet her joy remained. Cancer was taking her physical strength and would eventually take her life. But she also understood the cancer was her gateway to heaven.
During our last visit Jodi talked about 2 realities that she (all of us) held in balance: The reality of grief and the reality heaven. During each visit she recalled wonderful memories of her family, her friends, and her life. Those recollections produced laughter and tears. Her concerns were not for herself, but for how all this was affecting the people she loved. Her worry was for their pain. The tears were also for the upcoming momentary separation from her “team.”
Knowing that death is an inevitable issue each of us faces, Paul writes of Christ’s second coming. As he sought to instruct us in this matter, he also sought to comfort us. Here the Apostle reveals his motive for writing, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:18). As we experience death our grief is real. But we should not despair. We have hope in the certainty of our resurrection.
The second reality Jodi spoke about is the reality of heaven, eternal life with Jesus. Yes, in heaven there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering and so on. All those things are true. But also, you will be with the Savior…..FOREVER. Jodi is living that right now. The moment following her last breath on earth, she took her first breath in heaven. Again, from the Apostle, “For we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:7-9; NASB).
That is not just the future for Jodi but for all who believe in Jesus and trust Him. The most recognized verse in all the Bible, John 3:16, states it clearly: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
The truth of God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, and steadfastness should be the framework through which we understand and live today.
As you would expect, part of the tribute to Jodi was the opportunity for people to share their personal remembrances. I am always amazed what people remember. For sure those big, somewhat predictable events are mentioned. But also referenced are the seemingly small, insignificant interactions. A kind word, a handwritten note, sharing a brief minute together. An action so small it could easily be forgotten but will never be forgotten by the recipient of the gesture. A word that summarizes all this is legacy. Saturday afternoon I witnessed at least part of Jodi’s legacy.
Friends, co-workers, the obvious people who come to mind when you think about the topic. Likewise, the list includes those with whom you have only “casual contact.” The person at the gym, the nurse in the doctor’s office, the checkout person at Costco. Daily you are building your legacy. What do you want people to say about you at your “memorial”?
Think about that as you gather for your Thanksgiving feast.
“Talk” again soon.