I’ve been thinking of legacy as of late. Serving a purpose that goes beyond the here and now. Have you considered a person’s impact in light of the age of the universe?
A Human Life In Light of the World’s History
Humans, compared to the age of the earth, just got here. If it was within a 24 hour period, we arrived at the most 2 minutes and 17 seconds ago. We ‘feel recent’, but can’t imagine a time before recorded history.
In the two and a quarter minutes, can one person make an impact? One that will affect the world? Or just the people, and for how long?
Is it through their influence on another? Did you know Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle, and Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great?
Individuals can leave a mark on the social landscape for thousands of years. Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Confucious, Muhammad. The Founding Fathers of America’s influence has been rippling for hundreds of years. Consider the philosophers that shaped thought, the scientists that made discoveries that have reverberated through the ages, and the artists and musicians that connected the mind and heart.
The number of people who have ever been born is estimated to be 107,602,707,791 (107.6 billion people). Only 6.5% are alive today. Stop and reflect on that ratio.
None of them—save one—could do anything about the weather, geology, life, etc. A big enough rock from space, a lightning bolt, or flood, and it’s over with, no matter how smart you are. Then there is the astronomical scale to consider.
The human impact can’t even be considered relevant overall. It doesn’t even rank on a naturalistic scale. Only an eternal impact matters, that transcends all of that. The personal impact you have is important, shaping the future of someone, but not their eternity.
In the Christian worldview, only one man has affected universal and eternal change—Jesus Christ. Creator and Sustainer of the universe, shaper of thought, savior of mankind, and restorer of Creation. The way to affect eternal impact for the rest of us is to lead others to the one who is eternal and let Jesus do the rest.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word mentor? To me, three things come to mind: advisor, teacher, example. I think mentorship is the most common form of leadership. We all look up to someone.
Sometimes, a mentor can become like family.
To get to that level takes years, a few big moments, and lots of little ones. One of the most influential people in my life is Pastor Jaime. She got there by investing in my wife and me over the years. John Maxwell teaches five levels of leadership (influence), and this is an example of it.
In The Beginning
My wife was somewhat connected to FirstNLR’s Deaf Church. When we wanted to get married, we started going there. To get married we had to go through premarital counseling with her. The Position level, she’s a Pastor who can marry us after she advises and teaches us.
By the time we were married and had had a few counseling sessions during the hard times, her level of influence was at Permission level. Because she cared, her influence expanded beyond her role as a pastor.
A quick aside about pastors, they’re shepherds, top-level mentors who are best exemplified by the 23rd Psalm. An average mentor will give advice and suggestions. The extraordinary ones invest their life into you.
Taking It To The Next Level
Then my godson died. Within hours she was at the scene where we were with the EMTs and police. I cannot imagine the impact it had on her. What she did after left a lasting impact on us.
We were in the emergency room at least three times within a year, she came every time. She tried to help us find a lawyer, fought for Casey to have an interpreter in therapy. When they wouldn’t pay for one, she did it for free at a personal cost to herself. That’s her full-time job.
Later she took on the role of counselor for us both when we could no longer afford therapy. When GriefShare came to our church for the first time, she and/or Daisy, arranged for an interpreter for my wife.
She was at the upper limits of the Production level. That’s where you follow because of what they’ve done for you or the team.
Pushing Us Outside Our Comfort Zones
Her horizons changed for us. With the help of her persuasive mother-in-law, she got us to lead a ministry team. That was three and a half years ago. I was encouraged to make friends and given a book on how to do just that. Books. At this point, she knew me well. I count at least seven of her recommendations I’ve read. (After writing this, she gave me 8 more books.)
From there she continued to teach and mentor, recruiting us (among others) into Deaf Church ministries. Deaf GriefShare, the Media Team for me, Greeter and Outreach for Casey (perfect for her kind heart and friendliness). We took on set-up for the class when people dropped out.
That’s the beginning of the fourth level, People Development. Reproducing leaders. It took four years to get to that level with us. See the pattern?
The Peak of Leadership
Then we had a miscarriage. The Saga of Squiggles details those days, and the importance of being in a church family. Pastor Jaime hit the fifth level, Respect. You only arrive there if someone places you there. It’s what happens when people respect you for who you are because you led well from all the levels over the course of years.
Something else began to happen as well. A mentor became a close friend.
We continued on as she developed us into leaders. Since becoming a supervisor at work, she’s fielded many of my questions. Her answers are printed off for quick reference on my clipboard.
She empowered us to do more. For example, a bowling night that she organized, she had John, Casey and myself lead. Another occasion was an impossible weekend for her, she was pulled away, so Casey was empowered to lead a Woman’s Day that had been planned. Casey wasn’t a take-charge type of person before. Now she is.
Deaf Den ran without a hitch later that night, though we had to pick on her a little. We joined John on her leadership team at Deaf Church. The next day I taught Sunday School for the first time.
That was possible because of another friend and mentor, Daisy, who encouraged and empowered me to lead sessions of GriefShare. So I was used to looking at a room full of people ready to listen to me, just not standing there and teaching for a length of time. But I did.
Now she’s officially stepping down from the position. She’ll always be our pastor though. Now she’s entrusting us to help her successor. We’re the legacy she is leaving, and it’s humbling to be trusted with that much.
We wouldn’t be where we are without her loving, investing, and sharing life with us. Do you want to make an impact?
First, find someone ahead of you in the journey. Learn from them. I can say many of my decisions are filtered through what she’s taught me.
Next, pour into another like she did us. Create a legacy and form a relationship that continues forever.
Jaime won’t be our pastor after this year is up, that will be Pastor Gary, and we will help and learn from him. She will always be our friend, a part of our family that is closer than some of our blood relatives. We can never repay her for all she’s done. When you mutually go through life’s ups and downs together, especially like our lives, an unbreakable bond is forged.
That’s how you make an impact as a mentor and leave a legacy. You care, help, build up, and empower them to move forward. Now it’s our turn.
Does the image you have of yourself match who you really are? Which one is real? Here’s another thought, it’s not about how you see yourself that matters as much as what you do. Actions matter.
One day I was dressed all in black, my old uniform, but it wasn’t the clothes that triggered a thought. It was how I saw myself then. You see, though no one knew it, I was the baddest, toughest, guy around who had all the answers.
How did I interact with the world within this view of myself? With a superiority complex covering over an inferiority complex.
What use was it? Hard to say, I was too busy telling the world how brilliant I was to measure impact. There wasn’t any legacy in it.
Ask yourself those questions.
Living An Impactful Life
Now consider legacy. Legacy comes from making a meaningful impact in people’s lives. If you look carefully you can see the influence of one person as it works its way down a line of people. A ripple effect.
Think of the small things, the little things that you’re consistent at. I see people who show up and volunteer at every big project. They are in part creating something that will have an impact for years to come. Those who see them will remember, and whatever banner they are under will be remembered.
I work with people that I know I can count on. Their legacy is loyalty. One had even left, but while there I could count on her and learned from her.
The questions I’m leaving you are these, what legacy do you want to leave behind, and how far-reaching? When you die, how do you want to be remembered? For the Christians, when you see Jesus, will he tell you ‘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!’ (Matthew 25:21).
Think about these. If you are truly who you see yourself as and are making the impact that you should, or if it’s just a personal fantasy.