Several years ago my pastor preached a short series of sermons asking the church what kind of “legacy” they would like to leave. I remember being quite moved as I was reminded of my temporality. Sometimes I am reminded that I have a timer that began ticking as soon as I breathed my first breath. I will die. When this crosses my mind I am reminded of the gist of those sermons and I reevaluate whether or not I am living the type of life that will leave the legacy I seek.
Legacy may seem like a big word, but it isn’t. I am not speaking of a legacy like that of Kings and Popes. Rather, I speak of that which I might leave behind to any children I may father, or to my wife is she outlives me, to students if I teach, and to all those who share life with me for any extended period of time. As I was grading a paper on the famous New England theologian Jonathan Edwards I came to a point where the student quoted one of Edwards’ famous “resolutions” (see here) that stated the following:
“I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. “
I find that these words echo in my heart. I have seen plenty of people resolve to live “their life” for themselves, and that is not what Edwards meant and that is not what I mean. I don’t want people to remember me as embodying the song popularized by Frank Sinatra. I’ve seen that type of life lived and it ends ugly. Rather, I want to live a life that will allow me to say when I am older that I used my years for Christ in such a way that he willingly says, “Well done, though good and faithful servant.” When I die and someone etches an epithet into my gravestone I hope that like the Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel people will remember me as someone who knew he was “a disciple whom Jesus loves.” I want people to have been moved to find hope in the day when we will be resurrected to be with Christ. I want to be remembered as a great husband and father. If after this people say something about my career, my academics, my writing, sermons or lessons, mentorship, or any other such thing that will be nice, but it means nothing lest people remember me as someone who sought to live in the love of Christ. I have a long way to go to establish that legacy, but that is my aim.
Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.