It has been an interesting week and a half, coming off the “high” of an awe-inspiring and awesome vacation to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. Stepping where our founding fathers made important decisions, that shaped America into the great country it is today, left me exhausted with a touch of melancholy. I don’t know if it was the jet lag, fatigue, or just mild depression, but my feelings were all over the place afterward.
During that time, one word kept coming to my mind: legacy. Every corner we turned, place we visited, and artifact we perused was entrenched with legacy.
While standing on the back porch of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, looking out over the Potomac river, I imagined our First President, mulling over the day and collecting the very thoughts that led him to be known as the Founder of American Democracy. Washington’s dream (and legacy) was of a free and democratic country; liberty and justice for all. “While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him…” (Mount Vernon.org).
While seated in the front row of Ford’s theater, looking right at the balcony where Abraham Lincoln was shot, I imagined Lincoln enjoying date night with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. President Lincoln loved the theater and found rest there. Unfortunately, rest was not granted him. A disgruntled Confederate soldier assassinated the very person that, as President, used the power of the office to preserve the Union. And, in freeing the slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln left a legacy of freedom. “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper,” he declared. “If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.” (American Battlefield Trust).
Those are just a two examples of the places, people, and monuments that inspired me on my trip. One of things that kept being woven into the legacy’s of much of what I encountered was faith in God. Only God truly knows the hearts and minds of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but my heart believed them to have been men of faith or at least in my mind, according to their actions, they were.
The broken road of war, devastation, slavery, and one king leadership led these men to seek freedoms and rights that many take for granted today. Abraham Lincoln’s beginnings were quite humble. He was born in 1809 to two illiterate farmers. His mother encouraged him to read the bible to further his education. George Washington grew up as the third child of a middle class family. He completed only seven to eight years of schooling. What he didn’t learn through school, he learned through life experience. Both of these men didn’t choose their beginnings in this life, and neither did you and I.
In my Dwelling Places devotional, Lucinda Secrest McDowell, explains it like this:
“We don’t get to choose our beginnings. Some start out in the rocky soil of poverty, family crisis, or disability. Others are born into a rich loam with resources and people to nourish and care. Most of us fall somewhere in between. But we all have to find our way….”(McDowell,266).
How did your life begin? My life began in a lower to middle class family with both of my parents and two sisters. I am the middle child and the one that always wore the “referee” hat. 🙂 I was raised with Christian parents that always shared their faith with me, loved me, and prayed for me. Praise God for that because I know my teenage and young adult years produced a gray hair or two for them.
As stated above, we can’t change our beginnings BUT we do get to change our ending, our legacy, and/or how well we finish the race set before us. That is why, when in Washington D.C., I found such inspiration in the places and histories of these two men: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Despite their humble beginnings, they committed all of their resources, lives, and character to becoming the change they wanted to see in their lives, and in the world around them.
From a biblical perspective, Apostle Paul is a brilliant example of this. He began his life as Saul, persecutor of Christians until a life changing personal encounter with Christ. Through this encounter, he was transformed and became a new creation in Christ named Paul. The fierce intensity he had against Christians became a fierce intensity for Jesus, the gospel, and churches. He couldn’t change his beginning but , through Christ, he changed his legacy.
Lucinda Secrest McDowell, “Dwelling Places”continues:
“Because we do get to choose whether or not we will finish well: “No matter what season of life we are in, what developmental stage we are passing through, or what struggles we are facing, we can pause and intentionally choose who we want to be.”
“That dwelling in the presence of God is forming you into a person of fruit and virtue and legacy. You don’t need to be better than everyone else, just better–deeper–than you used to be”(McDowell,266).
I am so incredibly thankful that I am not defined by the beginning of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have a loving family and had an incredible childhood, but I am also a sinful person that took the broken road several times in spite of being saved and redeemed through Christ. Thank God that He kept pursuing me, loving me, and being with me.
Oswald Chamber’s reveals my heart when he says this:
“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
“I will never leave you…”— not for any reason; not my sin, selfishness, stubbornness, nor waywardness.
To sum this all up nicely and put a big red bow on it, one of the biggest things I got out of my trip to D.C is this: Does my day to day life, the things I am most committed to, relfect what I want my legacy to be? Through much reflection and prayer, yes, because everday I am committed to putting Jesus first. I humbly reveal this about myself:
Jesus IS my heart now. He has taken this sinful, broken person and changed me into a new creation. He continues to do this daily, every time I seek Him. I seek Him first in all I do. I want my legacy to be simply this: she had a heart for Jesus and a love for others.
What about you? What is your legacy going to be?
All glory to God,
American Battlefield Trust. “10 Facts: The Emancipation Proclamation.” Sponsored by the History Channel. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/10-facts-abraham-lincoln
Fire Bible: Global Study Edition. “Hebrews 13:5. New International Version. Life Publishers International. 2009.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon. “Washington Quotes.” Mount Vernon.org. https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/quotes/4/
Chambers. Oswald. “My Utmost For His Highest.” Discovery House Publishing. Updated edition, 1992.