Thursday, July 30, 2009

Legacy

If you died today what would people say about you at your funeral?

With that one question, the discussion around the table took a decidedly introspective turn at a recent Bud’s Warehouse Bible study. That question cuts to so many other core issues in one’s life: When people look at my life what do they see? Where have I hurt other people? Does my life have meaning? What does it mean to live? Over the years, I’ve found that few other questions create such a healthy discomfort, challenging individuals to really examine their life.

In a faith venture like Bud’s Warehouse, where individuals are rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness, and felony conviction, such a question opens new possibilities to our program participants. First, it’s an opportunity to see one’s life as a gift. Too often, individuals rebuilding lives only see the mistakes that they’ve made. They don’t allow themselves the opportunity to believe that that they might actually have a positive impact on the world. Just being asked the question about one’s legacy, opens a person to the possibility that life has meaning and one has the power to impact that story by positive actions. A person has the chance to use the gift of life to make a difference for others in however many days they have left.

Second, the question allows the opportunity to seek healing. Inevitably, in life, everyone has hurt others. When we think about what our friends and family might say about our life, we naturally reflect about the ways that we’ve caused damage to relationships and others. When I’ve done a Bible study on legacy, almost always someone starts talking about a broken relationship with a father or mistakes one has made with a son, daughter or wife. Just talking about it empowers our program participants to seek change in those relationships. When you see your life as a story, one wants to restore that which is broken.

Finally, when one faces death, one searches for meaning. Merely raising the question of a person’s funeral, frames life in its temporary state. Too often, we fail to see ourselves as only passing through this life. We don’t ask ourselves what is the point of this journey and instead settle for selfish goals or ultimately worthless pursuits.

It’s impossible to escape the question of life’s meaning when asked about one’s legacy. Over the years, I’ve noticed that our program participants instinctively know that life is more than just the here and now. Life has an eternal dimension that starts with decisions made in the 70 or so years on earth. One’s mistakes and broken relationships are the path to discovering grace. It’s the gift of forgiveness and new life offered by a man named Jesus, who 2000 years ago lived an extraordinary life that culminated in coming back from the grave after a terrible death on a cross. Life finds its ultimate meaning and purpose when framed in obedient faith in the One who conquered death and now offer true life.

It’s my hope that participants in our program find the strength to live a life that follows Jesus. At our funerals, people are quick to share how much we loved Jesus.

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