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The rabbi wants to be intentional and proactive about his daily purpose—and so do I—so his story, and my story, are not mostly about the temporal, but instead more about the eternal.
Dallas Willard put it bluntly: “If what you are doing is not eternally significant, then it is eternally insignificant.”
That stings, doesn’t it?
But if you can answer the second question, “What are you doing here?”, with matters of eternal significance, if even just for a part of each day—growing closer to Jesus, seeking him first, making a positive difference in someone’s life—showing them Jesus in you (even if unintentionally), then the answer for the, “Who are you?” question will be,
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21)
Friday I was sitting under the excellent teaching of Jeff Miller, the Rector for St. Phillips Anglican Church in Charleston. He was teaching on Ecclesiastes, which is all about the rabbi’s two questions. Jeff told the story of walking through the graveyard of his former church and studying the headstones. He came upon an engraving that stated only, “The Belle of Beaufort.”
Jeff decided to inquire about this obviously distinct and apparently uniquely fashionable lady, someone everyone would remember, given such an inscription on her headstone. Her death was in 1965, so surely some of the older members would remember her. But no one, absolutely no one remembered her at all.
The Belle of Beaufort was not The Belle for long.
Later that day Dina and I were walking through one of the many old graveyards[i] in Charleston and I noticed three headstones side by side: Recent, to much older. The writing on the more recent was clearly visible, and I pondered the life of this person. Does what is written here capture the essence of their life? The writing on the next older headstone had faded somewhat. The third was completely smooth and bare. Time and weather had erased the life of the entombed.
I thought to myself, “This is what the inheritance we leave behind looks like. It may be ‘readable’ for a while, but eventually it fades away.” It is erased by time and weather. But if we leave a legacy, time nor weather can erase it. Remember: Inheritance is something you leave for someone. Legacy is what you leave in someone.
Just a block or so later I noticed several headstones leaning up against the side of a church, in a dirty side yard, totally abandoned. They looked like the ghosts of eternally insignificant lives.
It is not what is written on your headstone that will matter, it is what you write into the hearts and lives of those around you.
Who are you? What are you doing here?
[i] A fun fact: A ‘graveyard’ is on the grounds of a church. A ‘cemetery’ stands alone.