Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on leaving a legacy. To read the first post, click here.
“Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of men” (Psalm 66:5).
In addition to preparing well for death and blessing our loved ones by creating a practical legacy, we can also create a spiritual legacy. A spiritual legacy may include the stories, values, and wisdom of our lives that point to the “awesome deeds” of God (Psalm 145:6). Such a spiritual legacy is a gift our loved ones will cherish for years to come.
Our Lived Spiritual Legacy
In part, we create our spiritual legacy by the way we live our days. I will never forget my grandmother studying her well-worn Bible in preparation for teaching her Sunday school lesson. Maybe you remember finding your mother on her knees by her bed; another friend recalls a favorite uncle pointing out how marvelously God designed caterpillars and butterflies. When we take time out of our busy days to read children books, sing them songs, or listen to their stories, we demonstrate the goodness and kindness of a heavenly Father who delights in them. Every way we live out God’s story of grace in our lives becomes part of our spiritual legacy.
Our Recorded Spiritual Legacy
In addition to our lived spiritual legacy, we can pass on our God-given wisdom and gospel-grown gratitude in written form or in an audio or video recording. There are numerous types of legacies we night leave: stories, letters, blessings, albums, or lists. To create such a legacy will take time, intentionality, and prayer, but we can press forward, remembering that after we’re gone, our loved ones often become ready audiences to hear our deepest beliefs and best stories—about them, about life, about God. Let’s consider each type of spiritual legacy.
Six Types of Spiritual Legacy
- Simple stories:
The stories we leave need not be complex or long. My mother used a tool called the ObitKit, which asked questions about her school, her work, and her early life. Reading her answers, which were only a few sentences long, I discovered she missed getting valedictorian because she got a bad grade in PE and that she had worked on the first Univac computer, which is now in the Smithsonian. As I read the answers she wrote, I saw how God had woven redemption into her life. To write your story, consider simple questions regarding school or work, or tell the story of how you came to trust the Lord or of a time when your faith was tested. If you’re stuck, check out Storycorps, which offers a vast repository of questions to get you started.
You might also want to write a letter. You could begin a yearly practice of writing a letter to loved ones on their birthday or at Christmas. In that letter, you might observe ways you see God working in their lives, or you might share ways God has been working in your life. Because your loved one may not keep the letter, you may want to make a copy of it and store it to be given to them when you die.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you…” Following the model of Numbers 6:23-26, write or record a simple blessing for your loved one. Daniel Taylor, in his book Creating a Spiritual Legacy: How to Share Your Stories, Values, and Wisdom, suggests either writing in the form of a prayer or in the form of “words that wish them well” (Taylor, 41). Before you write the blessing, consider prayerfully the ways this person reflects the image of God and shares the gospel story in their lives. Consider how you’d like to see them grow in years to come. A blessing should always be positive and full of hope and faith, but it may also contain humor. Taylor recommends beginning with the words, “May you….” or “I hope for you….” (Taylor, 41). Such blessings can become powerful sources of joy and hope for the recipient.
An album might be a scrapbook, a digital album, or a journal that contains many memories from your life. Some people have been creating a spiritual legacy for years by scrapbooking. If you, like me, struggle to put scrapbooks together, you might try an online tool like Mixbook or Shutterfly, which allows you to upload photos and digital scans. For my husband’s sixtieth birthday, I gathered photos from across his lifespan along with scans of handwritten letters from our children and dear friends and created a book on Mixbook. StoryWorth is another legacy service which provides the opportunity to send a loved one a question each month and then takes the responses and creates a book for you. Such albums can provide a rich and vivid history.
To express your values and wisdom, you can create lists: lists of favorite Bible verses and how they have encouraged you, lists of life lessons, lists of things you enjoy, lists of people who influenced you and how, lists of ways you want to be remembered, etc. Just write a number at the top of the page, the topic, and start writing: “Five Things I Learned through Trials,” “Five Things I Enjoy,” etc. Such lists can be simple to create and yet can reveal much about how God has shaped you.
Just Do It
No matter which form you choose, begin today by taking one small step. Schedule a time on your calendar to work on your spiritual legacy. Set a timer for twenty minutes and write down your ideas. Gather a group of friends to work together on your legacies. You’ll be amazed at the joy you will discover as you remember the wonders God has done in your life. You’ll be encouraged as you imagine the faith, hope, and love you will share with future generations.
Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash