I know that it’s hard to imagine, but one day people are going to talk about you. When you die and people gather to “remember you” people are going to talk about you. And what I’ve learned from all the funerals I have officiated at is this: at the end of your life, those who loved you most won’t talk about many of the things that consume your thinking today. So many of the things we strive for, chase after, and emphasize in our culture never get mentioned in those settings. I’ve never been at a funeral where the family passed around the deceased loved ones resume, reminiscing about each of his accomplishments. I’ve never once seen family pass around bank statements or stock portfolios. And as much as our culture applauds sports, I’ve never seen trophies or medals displayed next to someone’s casket.
It’s not what they did that matters but who they were.
Their motives, their attitudes, their feelings – the kind of person they were – these are the things for which they are remembered. Funny stories about how they always did certain things in their own special way. Memories of how they offered encouragement, support, friendship, compassion, and love to family, friends, coworkers, communities. Testimonies about how their strength, courage, stamina, and faith inspired everyone around them. These are what define a person’s story in the end.
Stephen Covey, in his leadership classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, asks readers to think through how they want to be remembered when they die. While it may sound creepy or morbid or depressing, it’s actually a quite liberating and life-affirming exercise. When we think about the kind of person we want others to remember us for being, it’s much easier to work backwards from our deaths to make the choices now that can help us grow into that person. When we know our destination, it’s much clearer when and where we should start, stop, stay, and go.
Ultimately, we know that our stories don’t have to end when we leave this life. When we experience the grace of God through Christ, we can live forever serving and enjoying God in heaven. And while I don’t know for sure, that’s when I think the stories that our lives tell will be taken to a whole new level.
Because our stories are not just our stories
Our stories are part of an ever bigger story.
Every life is connected to so many others.
My story is connected to your story. All of our lives intersect with countless other lives in ways that we don’t recognize or can’t even imagine. But God knows the big story, the grand design that He’s been authoring since the beginning of time. He knows how all the chapters fit together, how each of our stories unite in an epic like no other.
Imagine a person in heaven explaining how your life impacted them. How your story changed their story. I’ve heard someone speculate that in heaven we’ll have a huge banquet, a crazy-joyful dinner party unlike any other. During the meal, one after another, each person will share their story, and we’ll finally get to see how they all fit together.
So how do you want your part in that ultimate story to read? I know you don’t want to live with regrets. None of us does. But most will. You may not like where your story is heading, but it isn’t finished yet. It’s not too late to change it. We’ve all made decisions we regret. We’ve all made mistakes and found ourselves wondering how we were going to keep going. But the good news – the essence of the new life, of being born again, is that Jesus is walking with you and is there for you. He want to help you write your life story. He is willing to give you a fresh start. Rebirth. Resurrection. Grace.
God wants your story to be more than “happily ever after.” He wants you to be fulfilled “eternally ever after.” If you allow Him, your story will become written in a language more meaningful, with themes more beautiful, than you could ever imagine.
The choice is yours!