My last surviving grandparent crossed over the river into the other side of eternity yesterday afternoon. Granddad Stephens was 97. When I think of the legacy that my grandfather left, I almost always think of the song, “Leader of the Band” by Dan Fogelberg. Granddad Stephens had a natural talent for music and he pursued that as his career in life retiring as a High School band director not far from where I grew up. Maybe more importantly though, along with my grandmother, he brought music into the lives of his children and even down into my own soul today. Granddad, I know that like King David of old, is now playing and dancing in HIS presence. For the rest of our family who are left behind, we are thanking God and remembering the good things that have been built into our lives by granddad hands. He left a legacy.
The reality in this situation is that we all have an opportunity to leave a legacy. Whether we like it or not, unless we move to the desert by ourselves, we’re going to leave some kind of imprint, good or bad, on those around us. The question is what kind of legacy will we leave. I’m reminded of Paul writing to Timothy in his last letter exhorting the young evangelist: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” Paul called Timothy to deliberately build into the lives of younger men who would then carry the work on. There was intentionality to the method. If we are purposeful about how we live, then the fruit to come will be lives which carry the legacy on to others. The most profound legacies are not accidents, but deliberate lives lived out in front of those coming behind us.
One of the most powerful illustrations of this principle would be the life of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was an 18th century evangelist, preacher, writer, and president of what is now Princeton University. Consider this list compiled by one historian of the descendants of Edwards: 1 U.S. Vice-President, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers and 100 missionaries. The life of Edwards was deliberate and a fruitful legacy flowed. Maybe one of the easiest ways to expand the love of Christ and Kingdom of God the world over is simply to leave a legacy of love to those who follow. So what about us? What about me? What king of legacy are we leaving for those to follow?
Check out this great clip of Dan Fogelberg singing Leader of the Band in honor of his father: