Have you ever thought about the legacy you are creating and will one day leave behind? Perhaps it is because our boys are now adults or the fact that we are expecting our first grandchild, but this issue of a legacy has been on my mind. Whether rich or poor, famous or seemingly obscure, we all impact our corner of the world. Whether it is by our presence or absence, a spoken word or a thought withheld, an action or inaction, the world will not be the same when we leave it as when we came into it.
Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though t’were his own. –Johnann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Across the street from me when I was growing up was Miss Seifert. Miss Seifert never married and had no close family of her own. She taught horticulture at Indiana State University of Evansville (Now USI). Miss Seifert and I shared a love of flowers, cats and butterflies. Her house and yard, which contained more varieties of irises than I ever knew existed, was an oasis for me. But I think the reason I was so drawn to Miss Seifert was her ability to make me feel important. Not just the usual ‘pat on the head’ in passing adults usually bestow on kids, but a feeling that through me, she was experiencing and celebrating these events as well. As an awkward and often socially backward kid, to be listened to and encouraged at that age was huge. I don’t know if she had that relationship with any other or every other kid in the neighborhood. All I know is that for the few years I knew her, she made me feel special.
Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself. –Mahatma Gandhi
For some reason, when I read this quote, it screamed “CRAIG!” Let me tell you a little about my younger son.
Craig came into this world ‘sunny side up’ as the delivery room doctor phrased it and I must say, despite a tough few years of midnight runs to the emergency room, breathing machines and medications, allergy tests and shots, he managed to maintain that initial ‘sunny side up’ disposition very well.
Craig has always had my passion for reading and writing. It comes as no surprise to Jim or me that we soon will be parents to an English teacher. Reading, writing and discerning meaning in literature all came as natural to Craig as making honey does to bees.
But…when it came to sports, Craig was more like a fish out of water. When he was younger he played one year of t-ball. He would play wiffleball with Jim and the neighborhood kids and play racquetball or his version of it against the garage with his friend, Robert. But Craig, by his own admission, was not a naturally gifted athlete. In high school, Craig picked up a tennis racquet and played well enough to make the team his senior year. The amazing thing wasn’t that he was playing…it was the joy he seemed to get out of playing. He wasn’t the best on the team by far and I don’t think he won very many matches, but he enjoyed practicing, competing and cheering fellow team members on as they played. As Jim once put it “Craig doesn’t have a competitive bone in his body”. He would smile as he hit a good shot; he would smile as his opponent hit a good shot. He was quick with a complement and I’m sure, at times, it infuriated whomever he was playing. But this didn’t matter to Craig. He found joy in the game itself.
When adversity comes into your life, happiness is the first thing to go…joy is the spirit that remains. –Meadow “Meadowlark” George Lemon III.
I was watching the local news the other night and they were interviewing Meadowlark Lemon, who was in town for a charity event. If you are near my age or older, this name means something to you. If not, let me clue you in: The Harlem Globetrotters.
Although he was asked about his career with the Globetrotters, Meadowlark, who is a born again Christian and non-denominational minister, was quick to get his witness in. It was very apparent that while the Globetrotters have are a fond memory for Meadowlark, his passion is definitely in using that time in his life to reach out to young people. I was only half listening to the interview, but the above line caught my attention. “Happiness is the first thing to go.”
Isn’t that the truth? According to Wikipedia, happiness is a mental or emotional stat of well being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions. Happiness is an emotion and so when things go awry, our emotions quickly follow. But isn’t joy an emotion as well? From Meadowlark’s quote, it seems that joy is something else entirely.
I looked at a lot of other quotes on joy. They seemed to have one thing in common: to have joy is not dependent on your own immediate circumstances. And so, I as usually do, I turned to my Bible to see in what context I could find joy there.
Do you realize there are 244 references to joy in the bible, according to Bible Gateway, an online Bible resource? How many times do you think the word happiness is found? The answer is 28.
As I scrolled through the 244 verses that referenced joy, two caught my eye in particular. The first is in John 14. The title of this chapter is “Jesus Comforts His Disciples.” This is right before Christ is arrested and he is speaking to his disciples, trying to reiterate all he had been teaching them. He reminds them to trust in His Father and tells them that
God with give them the Holy Spirit to be with them forever. In verse 27, Jesus tells them the following: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
And in chapter 15:11, I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Before Christ died he took care of his “affairs” on earth. On the cross, he made sure his mother was to be cared for by giving to her a new son, John. To his Father, with his dying breath, he commended his soul. But to his disciples…to us…he left a legacy of peace and of joy. Peace that our hearts would not be troubled and that we would not be afraid. Joy…his joy…that we might have joy no matter what else the world would give us.
Peace and Joy. We speak of them at Christmas. And then we put them away with the decorations to be brought out again next year. But what if we kept them out? What if we put them where we could see them daily and remember that these are not emotions but promises from Christ? His legacy, handed down throughout the ages, meant to be used.
What kind of legacy are you creating?