Saturday, 16 April 2016

What will we leave behind?

The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. Proverbs 10:7.

My wife and I spent time recently with a friend of some forty years. I say “friend”, though we haven’t in fact seen much of one another over all that time. But we were close at an important and formative time of our lives, and it was good to catch up with everything that has gone on since. We didn’t find ourselves running out of things to talk about!

We reminisced, among other things, about mutual friends from years gone by – people who had influenced us, who had made a significant difference to our lives. And our conversation proved the truth of the lovely verse above – yes, the memory of the righteous is indeed a blessing.

How can you ever calculate the impact somebody else has made on your life, your opinions, your personality? Answer: of course, you can’t – some things are literally incalculable. All you can say is: I am a different and a better person because of X.I am so glad that they happened into my life.

The young man who led me to faith in Christ as a teenager remains vivid in my memory, even though I have had no contact with him at all for half a century. I can hear his laugh right now. I can see the earnestness with which he spoke.

A Sunday school teacher… a youth leader… a fellow-student at university… a loyal and Christlike church member… an old man of rock-solid, cast-iron integrity… a woman who remains resolutely cheerful and trusting in God in spite of a life of deep sadness…

Yes, they are all there, like a photo-gallery in my mind. And thinking about them isn’t just an exercise in nostalgia, pleasant though that is; no, they still affect me, they are still changing me. Isn’t that wonderful?

Several of them, of course, are long dead. But, as the writer to the Hebrews says of Abel, “by faith they still speak, even though they are dead” (Hebrews 11:4).

Two thoughts in particular strike me.

First, I am sure that if they were able to read what I have written here they would be amazed, even embarrassed. “Don’t be so silly!” they would say, “I was just someone whose path happened to cross with yours. I was nobody special!”

Well, yes, in one sense that is true: they were just very ordinary people. But in another sense they were special – special to me, and also to many others. It’s no exaggeration to say: infinitely special, eternally special. And this is not particularly because of anything they said, though they certainly did say good things, but, much more, simply because of who and what they were.

What a mystery is the flavour, the taste of a personality; what a wonder is the fragrance and colour of a character. How could you ever pin down the sheer, utterly unique “him-ness” or “her-ness” of a particular person! Every human being, created by God, is a miracle. And every human being re-created in the likeness of Christ is a double miracle.

Second, if what I’m saying is true, why shouldn’t I do for others what others have done for me? That, of course, is the challenge in all this.

Do you ever think how great it would be if you were really rich, and could give a massive amount of money to some good cause? Every now and then I get an appeal from a charity asking me to “remember us in your will”. Nothing wrong with that, of course: as Jesus said, there is more happiness and satisfaction in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35).

Sadly, most of us just can’t do it.

But Proverbs 10:7 reminds us that we can donate to posterity something even greater than money or property – that even in, say, 2060 people we barely remember will be able to say “I really thank God for the day that person came into my life”.

How can I become that kind of person? Ah, that’s the question! And the answer I would give is simple: Don’t try to be that kind of person. No, simply pray to be like Christ – and then be yourself.

Loving Father, thank you for the Christlike people who have, without even knowing it, helped to mould and form the person I am. Help me to do for others what they have done for me. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment