What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. – James 4: 14
As most of you know, my Florida “home away from home,” Sanibel Island, was hit by a devastating hurricane a few weeks ago. As my friends there keep me updated on the conditions, it makes me ponder how fragile and fleeting our lives are, and even more, our possessions.
I’m reminded of another day, a few years ago, when it became abruptly apparent that a chapter of our lives had been closed, and there was no going back.
Marty and I had lived in Port Huron, Michigan, for over thirty years. Needless to say, those three decades were a major season of our lives. When we had first moved there, Joanna and Ben had been six and three; by the time we moved to Louisville, Marty and I had both retired, Joanna and Ben were both married, Kelly had arrived, grown up, and left home, and we had four grandchildren.
Marty had poured a lot of time and love into the big house on Lake Huron. He has always been handy, and the more experience he’s had with remodeling, the more impressive his work is. During the time we lived on the lake, he had remodeled virtually every room of the house and repaved the patio. The basement had been turned into separate living quarters, with a bathroom and large bedroom/recreation room where Ben had lived for a while in his latter high school years. After he had moved out of the “lower level,” Kelly had moved in, the “man cave” colors changed to a different “girl” color on every wall. Bathrooms had been retiled, kitchen cabinets updated, and the foyer floors redone in stunning black marble, framed in cherry wood. Marty had rebuilt the bookshelves, paneling, and fireplace in the den, making it one of our favorite places for the family to “hang out.” He had added wainscoting to other rooms, making them generally more “classy.” I loved to show the various rooms to my friends. Marty’s creativity was evident in each one; he clearly had a gift.
The year after moving to Louisville, we went back to Port Huron to pick up some things that were in storage. While we were there, we decided to go for a nostalgic walk on the beach. After driving to the park in our old neighborhood, we made our way along the lakeshore, past the familiar houses of our former neighbors.
As we were passing our former home, we noticed someone out in the yard. He waved to us, and we waved back.
“Do you live here?” Marty called. The man replied that he did. We identified ourselves as the former owners of the house, and he invited us to come up. After a brief chat, he asked if we’d like to come in and see what he and his wife were doing to the place. Curious, we said, “Sure.”
I’m not sure we were prepared for what we saw.
The remodeling had just begun; the place had been gutted.
All the shelves, paneling, floors, cabinets, counters – ripped out and gone. Thirty years’ worth of Marty’s work had been undone. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye; he seemed to be taking it well – possibly better than I was.
As we walked back to the beach, I asked Marty if he was OK, and he said he was. “It’s their house now, they can do what they want.”
He was speaking the truth, of course, but I know that the truth doesn’t always line up with our emotions. A bit later, in the course of our conversation, he repeated, “It’s their house now.” I figured he was processing the experience. At least that’s what I would have been doing, if I’d just found out someone had bought the rights to all my books and decided to burn them all.
We got back to Louisville that Sunday, just in time for the evening prayer service. As we sang the first song, “All Glory Be to Christ,” I found myself tearing up at the appropriateness of the lyrics:
(To the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”)
Should nothing of our efforts stand, no legacy survive,
Unless the Lord does raise the house in vain its builders strive.
That Port Huron house is no longer ours. All that remains for us are the memories we have and cherish, the love that was poured out there, the children who were raised and loved; the Bible studies, the baptisms in the lake, the countless devotional times spent sitting by the water with my Bible, journal, and guitar; the birthday parties with our kids and their friends, beach parties with my students, favorite books read to the children and grandchildren by the fireplace; Thanksgiving gatherings, Christmas mornings, and Easter egg hunts. The legacy of those years is whatever impact was made on souls for eternity.
This is true for all of life, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing.
I recently attended the funeral of a dear friend and listened to her family and friends give glowing tributes to her, memories of the ways in which she touched and impacted lives. Her legacy consists of those priceless, intangible treasures of the hearts and lives she changed for the better. I want to be like her, leaving the kind of imprint she left – the kind of legacy that is forever.
I want my life to count for Jesus. Nothing else matters.
Prayer: Lord God, thank You for the gift of life. I don’t want to squander it on things that don’t last and don’t matter. Jesus, You gave Your life for my salvation; I want my redeemed life to count for Your kingdom. Lead me daily in devotion and service to You, in Your name, Amen.