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When It’s All Been Said and Done

September 5, 2019

I got word this morning that a friend died of a heart attack last night.  It’s not like we were best friends.  I knew him and respected him for his work in ministry.  He was a man after God’s heart.  I had lunch with him a couple of weeks ago and got a wonderful dose of encouragement and vision from him, along with some really good Oklahoma BBQ.  My heart is heavy at the word of his death.  

He left a wife and three grown children behind.  He also left a thriving ministry to churches and ministers all over the central part of the Heartland.  And he left hundreds (probably thousands) of lives who had been enriched and enlarged because of his investment in them.

Lots of them have been posting on Facebook.  It’s like a rolling eulogy.  A stellar one.  The words, “Encouragement,” “Servant,” “Influence,” come up over and over.  These words are the result of a well-stewarded life.  My friend, Jerl, invested in people.  As I watched him and connected with him over the years since we were students in Bible college, it was always the same.  His question was always, “How can I help you?”  It showed up in his tone, his body language, his facial expression, his words.  His positivity was contagious.  These Facebook posts of testimony are there because of his investment in people’s lives.  Mine included.

This isn’t the first time I’ve lost a friend to death.  I imagine that at my age it will happen more and more often.  I knew this would be happening to me.  It happens to everyone who is edging toward “three-score and ten” years.  But it took me by surprise at how quickly it’s begun to happen.  (In my mind, I’m still 30-something.  My body tells me otherwise, but…)

With each death of a friend, “When it’s all been said and done,” comes to my mind.  I read and hear of the impact of their lives, and reflect on how their lives touched mine.

I don’t run in circles where people are leaving fortunes to their families when they die.  I’d love to be able to leave a few million for Debbie and my kids to enjoy, but, sadly, that’s not happening.  My friend wasn’t a financially wealthy man, either.  You’re not likely to build massive wealth in full-time vocational ministry.  He had stewarded his resources well, though.  Both material and non-material.  Whatever his beneficiaries receive from his estate, Jerl leaves behind a legacy of honor and love that can’t be quantified or measured.

And that’s got me asking myself, “When it’s all been said and done, when I’ve finished my race, when my life is over, what will I have left behind?”  A morbid question, perhaps, but one worth asking.

Whether we realize  it or not (or like it or not), we’re all providing the content for our eulogies (and Facebook posts about us), day by day, moment by moment.  I don’t think Jerl was consciously building a eulogy,.  I don’t think he woke up every morning and asked himself, “How can I build a great eulogy today?” but I know he intentionally invested his life, his influence, his energy, his resources to build into other people’s lives.

This kind of encouraging life may be occasionally accidental, but only occasionally.  Most often, this kind of investment requires going out of your way.  Sometimes far out of your way.  And that happens by intention and choice.  A day at a time, a moment, a choice at a time.

I’m thankful for the thousands of choices Jerl made to pour into people’s lives.  Thankful and challenged.  Challenged by the question his life suggests: When it’s all been said and done, what will I leave behind?

From → Marriage

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