It's been a pretty eventful couple of years. I went back to teaching after a six year break, I'm finishing my Master's, and four of the dearest friends I've ever had moved their families to Colorado. Our first grandbaby was born and the 106 year old church I pastored for ten years dissolved and joined with another church. We brought three 11 year old boys into our home. My father in law and my grandfather both passed away.
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours boxing up my grandfather's books and sermon notes. He was a preacher and missionary for somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 plus years. When I was little I would travel with him from church to church as he spoke and sang some of the corniest songs you've ever heard. I wont lie and say he and I agreed on everything, because we didn't. I wont even say he always lived out everything he studied, but neither do I, and neither do you. However, sitting there flipping through sermon after sermon made me ponder the mortality we all face. At the end of the day, 65 plus years of ministry was reduced to seven plastic bins.
That's it. Seven tubs of books, loose papers, and long forgotten sources of inspiration. This was his legacy. Or was it? I was sad. Partly because I miss him and partly because it seemed like so little, such an incredible reduction of decades worth of work into a few small piles, but then the stories came.
My grandmother came in to see how things were going. Every book, every page sparked a memory. A memory of this preacher and that church. She said when he started preaching he only preached for about 15 minutes at a time. "But he got over that," she laughed. She talked of people he witnessed to who trusted Christ and went on to share that hope with others. We visited about prayer meetings, revivals, and friends long since home with the Lord. That was his ministerial legacy, not the shards of paper in the bins.
It has been said that God makes straight lines with crooked sticks. I know for certain this is true in my case. It was true for Papaw, and it's true for us all. My heroes aren't really preachers and pastors. My heroes are their families. It is the preacher's family who sees them at their worst while everyone else sees their best. It's often hard for our families to reconcile these two sides of us; matching the marred with the redeemed.
I couldn't help but think, after serving in ministry for 24 short years, "what will your legacy be, Matt Parker?" What will be in the jumbled stack of bins representing the sum total of your efforts for the Kingdom. That's a tough question, and maybe a harder answer. For sure there will be reminders of a time when my temper defined me. There will be trinkets to echo a day when I sought more for my children's compliance than I did for their hearts. What will be my legacy with my family be? Another hard question.
There will be things my kids find when I'm gone and one of them will say, "Why on earth did he keep this?" What they may not know is it reminded me of something; something special. Like the shell casing from my brother-in-law's military funeral or the yellow Power Ranger given to me by a young man I led to Christ. They'll wonder why on earth I still have every note Tammy ever wrote when we dated or the really ugly candle one of them gave me for Father's day or some other occasion. Then, they'll put it all in a bunch of bins and try to figure out what to do with it.
Some will go to the trash, some will go to loved ones, and some will just sit there, a vault for some piece of forgotten lore. But my question is this: What will your bins represent? Will they be filled with pointless and meaningless trinkets, money, power, or prestige? Will they be filled with items for which no one can find any meaning?
Or will they be filled with evidence of a life lived pouring the Kingdom into those around you? Sadly, I fear my seven dusty bins will be filled with far more wasted time than effective effort, but it doesn't have to be this way. Today our pastor reminded us as long as you can pray, you have hope. My prayer today is for us to fill our bins with memories and stories of how we did the only thing He really called us to do; die to self, live for others, and praise His name.