I’m trying something different here, going out on a proverbial limb, to approach a particular topic from many potential angles. I want to break it down and stare at it under the microscope. Then, I want to put it back together again along with the new insights I’ve hoped to have gained to see what it looks like with my broadened understanding.
This process should take more than one blog post. I am not even completely sure at this point exactly where we might end up. But, if you choose to take this journey with me, I hope we both get some surprising insights into an idea that probably dominates writers as much if not more than anyone else on this planet, and that’s the concept of legacy.
Say the word legacy, and the first thing that pops into many people’s minds is family, more specifically the children they have and what those children will go on to do in this world. Others see legacy as the accomplishments that will outlive them, such as a public building they helped to erect or the miracle cure they discover.
Living in America, where life’s dreams are often equated with visions of success from a capitalistic perspective (let’s face it, you mention the word legacy and rock stars or Rockefellers come to mind long before Mother Theresa), it may shamefully take us a moment to reach the point where we begin to define legacy from a Godly perspective. But when Christians do make it to that perspective, they can take actions with God’s help that have ripple-effects that will truly pass on to generations.
God Himself explains the workings of legacy at the family level, as to the seventh generation will those who deny Him be affected. It seems likely that those who serve Him will likewise affect how future generations of their families interact with God. For those of us who do not have children, the definition of family in connection to legacy has to be re-thought, in an outside-of-the-box kind of way. And that expanded definition of whom we potentially affect as we take our walk with God on this earth can actually apply to every one of us.
At its most fundamental starting point, legacy makes us ask a simple question that can be hard to answer: What do I want to be remembered for?
The more haunting question, of course, is will I be remembered at all, but we can’t touch on that dilemma until we have at least broached the first question. What do we want when it comes to our legacy?
Nicole Nordemann, a fantastic lyricist and singer, has a song titled “Legacy” that clearly compares the world’s definition of legacy to a Christian definition. Her chorus explains the Christian perspective wonderfully:
I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy
As a writer, I think we all secretly want to write the great American novel, but most of us realize that we are lucky if just one person besides our grandmother reads what we’ve written and is affected by it. I’ve struggled with my purpose in life for many years, always assuming God wanted me to do something bigger, something better, something more.
But my definitions for those words were always being driven by the capitalistic reality in which I lived. If I didn’t achieve according to the world’s standards, I assumed I was failing God in some way.
It wasn’t until I started to see the way God might use my talents in smaller circles that I began to find some peace with my purpose, my potential legacy. I have words to write only because God gives them to me (at least He gives me the writing that is any good; the blame for the bad stuff lays right at my feet!). All I can do is put the words down and have faith they will reach their intended target, even if the one person needing the words is only me.
Before we start breaking down what a Christian legacy looks like, think on your own feelings about legacy. What do you want the world to remember about you? What footprints do you hope to have laid down so that others might follow?