I have often been in small groups or leadership settings where we are encouraged to “write our own tombstone“. Sounds a bit morbid I know, but the idea is that it would cause us to stop and really think about what we want our lives to be about….
What do we want to be remembered for? What do we want to have accomplished?
I often get excited about activities like that. I am a fairly driven person, and often am refreshed by revisiting my passions, and dreaming about what God might do. It stirs me to remember what is REALLY important. And put first things first.
Recently a friend pointed out a verse tucked away at the end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians…”And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’” (Colossians 4:17)
We don’t know a whole lot about Archippus (though he is also mentioned in the book of Philemon), but Paul’s instruction is inspiring … “Fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” It reminds me of Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
God has a ministry, a mission, “good works”, which He has prepared for us to walk in.
One of the things I LOVE about working with college students, is to see them grasp this reality. Not just to come to a knowledge of the Gospel and begin their journey with Christ, but to start dreaming about how God might use them to bring redemption and light to this world. To see that embrace the reality that God has invited them to live out a unique role in His Kingdom work. How they might not just survive, but thrive!
And most of the people I know are young enough (naive enough?) to still believe that grand things are possible through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Yet, as I have gotten older, I have been constantly reminded that even as God might privilege us to participate in glorious work here on earth, we cannot lose connection with the simple truth that at the end of the day, we are first and foremost, broken men and women saved by the grace of God. Our identity is distinct from our “achievements” & anything good or meaningful is being produced by Him. This connection keeps us humble, keeps us dependent on the Lord, and reminds us of who deserves all the glory.
A friend recently showed me an example of someone who must have understood this….Ruth Bell Graham. Wife of Billy Graham, this was a woman who served God faithfully and fruitfully for decades. Saw more miraculous life change & redemption than most of us will ever see, and yet this was what she wanted on her tombstone:
“End of Construction….thank you for your patience” Yes, God used her for many things. Yes, countless lives were changed and influenced by her faith. But at the end of the day, she was just a person. A broken person, being put back together by Jesus Christ. A humble person who readily acknowledged that she probably tried the patience of those around her. And she has finally found her way home.
Hopeful. Humble. And pointing people to consider the patience and mercy of the Lord.
Pretty solid tombstone if you ask me.