Most of us will never write a book, invent something remarkable, or do anything to leave a mark in society with our name stamped on it. We might even feel that no matter what we say or do, if recognized at all, will soon be forgotten once we leave this world.
This is probably true for the majority of us…but only in part. True, our names and even memories of most of us will eventually disappear with time. But the reality is that we all make marks in society, leaving a permanent legacy.
Be it positive or negative, we cannot help but make a difference in the lives of those whose life path crosses ours. It is as though something of us, in either a big way or a small way, brushes off onto the other
But, it does not stop there. Our actions and words are powerful and continue on in one way or another.
Just as it is with universal Body of Christ, each one of us play a part and have a marked influence in what makes up world at large. There is nothing I can do that will not affect you, either directly or indirectly, and there is nothing you will do that will not in some way affect me.
This was brought home to me in a very real way several years ago as my husband and I walked for 8 weeks with a group of Christians, retracing the steps of the Crusaders from over 900 years ago. We were speaking with every Jew and Muslim that we could find from Southern France, through Switzerland, and ended in Bari, Italy.
Prayerfully, we walked from town to town, village to village, in hopes of making a dent in beginning to break down some of the barriers that understandably still stand strong in the hearts of both groups. Even though it was their ancestors, generations back, that suffered from the terrible atrocities the Crusaders placed upon those who had different belief, the wars and hatred still continue today.
Our part was to retrace the steps of one of the Crusaders’ routes, pray for reconciliation with each step, and wherever we could, sincerely say the words, “I’m sorry,” and to ask for forgiveness.
Why did we do this? Because after 900 years, there is still so much hatred and anger between many of the people who make up these three people groups. The world still suffers and wars because of the hateful words and cruel actions. The legacy of suffering has been left for all of us to deal with.
Did our words and prayers o behalf of reconcilition make a difference in anyone’s life? I believe it did. One Inman told us, with tears in his eyes, that he never thought he would live to hear a Christian asking for forgiveness for this event that they hold a festival each year for so that they will never forget.
Something that may mean very little to you might be monumental and life changing to me. The impact each of us makes on the other will, in some way, be passe on and on, from generation to generation.
We have each been given a certain amount of power by how we either help or hurt one another. I believe what we do with this power is what our life legacy will be.
One thoughtful word spoken in love can lift the heart of a downhearted person, and might suddenly elevate that person to a higher plane emotionally, spiritually and even physically. It could even change the course of what will one day be that person’s history…or even the history of the world.
In the small, yet powerful book, Out of Solitude, Henry Nouwen writes that whether one’s dream is to make dramatic changes in the world, write a book, build a house, or simply do something worthwhile for someone, “practically all of us think about ourselves in terms of our contribution to life.” Few would disagree with Nouwen’s assessment.
To question one’s self in the area of personal accomplishments is a natural response to healthy growth. Regardless of age, education, or any other differences, regular self examination will keep our society moving forward in a positive direction.
According to Nouwen, “making it” in life equates to contributing something to life of great worth. With this in mind, it is no surprise that as one grows older; looking back at one’s life generally brings either a peaceful contentment or a nagging sense of failure that deepens with time.
A friend of mine, an editor of a popular Christian periodical on Contemplative Spirituality, and a godly man whose words I value, inquired of how my husband was doing. I shared that he was going through a time of deep soul searching, asking the question that has haunted so many, “what have I done in my life that is of any consequence?”
To this my friend replied, “I certainly can understand. I used to struggle with this same thing. Over the years I have come to realize that, in the end, when any of us stand before God, the only thing that will matter is the answer to the question of, “have I loved well?”
These wise words have stayed with me and have made a marked difference in how I now view own success. My friend was right of course. The bible tells us that of all the fruits of the spirit, “the greatest of these is love.” When asked which was the greatest of the commandments, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Matthew 12:30-31)
Learning to love perfectly, as Jesus loved, is not something any of us will ever get right this side of heaven. But we can love well. If we are mindful of others and walk in the strength of God’s Holy Spirit, just as a teacher whose heart of love caused her to write uplifting notes to her students, we too have an opportunity everyday to make a difference by leaving behind the only thing that really matters…a legacy of love.