“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.”Hebrews 11:29-30
Songwriter Ryan O’Neal frames the idea of legacy in his song Emphasis with “Death is promised to the bee whose sting protects the colony. Was its life worth nothing more than honey for the queen?” We work, we laugh, we cry, we build, we destroy, we scheme, we love, we win, and in the end all of our creativity and personality is erased by life’s final number. Isn’t that a cheery thought?
However, although our being is absent from the world, that doesn’t mean our impact needs to be absent, as well. As we live, we get the opportunity to plant ideas, visions, structures, and dreams that outlive us. So how do we accomplish this? How can we learn from those who have come before us and leave a lasting legacy like the one given to us?
It starts with being faithful one day at a time. The Israelites, while perhaps not fully understanding it, exhibit this well in their journey from bondage into freedom. They willingly followed the guidance of the Lord into the unknown, and their reward was great—not just for them, but for their descendants as well. It continues by not giving up despite opposition. When crossing the Red Sea, they were pursued by Egyptian armies. When seeking to take Jericho, they had a literal wall to get past. Their persistence despite hardship resulted in their protection—not just for them, but for their descendants as well.
Finally, it concludes by recognizing humanity’s position of weakness before a mighty God. The Israelites mess up. Repeatedly. A strong argument could be made that in those early days they disobeyed God as a nation more than they obeyed Him. But God was still faithful to them in their moments of weakness. This did not give them an excuse to keep living in disobedience, but it called them all to a life devoted to the God who blessed Israel—not just for them, but for their descendants as well.
I believe the struggle of legacy is again reflected in the closing lines of Emphasis when O’Neal concludes that “The sweetest thing I’ve ever heard is that I don’t have to have the answers—just a little light to call my own. Though it pales in comparison to the overarching shadows, a speck of light can reignite the sun and swallow darkness whole.” Being obsessed with how you leave a mark on this world will consume you. Continuously looking forward never lets you plant seeds where you are now. So, don’t obsess; don’t worry. Be faithful where you are now, don’t give up when it gets hard, and remember that God is strong when you are weak. You’ll be amazed how He can turn your life into a legacy.