Someone told me recently about an assignment he was given in a graduate school leadership course. He was asked to write his obituary. At the time he was in his mid-20's and his obituary was the farthest thing from his mind. However, it was required so he began putting down some thoughts.
He first began listing the money, possessions and status he hoped to achieve during his life time. However, as he thought more, he realized that character qualities might be more important. After all, most tombstones don't say, "Owned two Cadillacs." When a tombstone has more than name and dates, it is often describes something about the character of the person such as, "Devoted Husband, Father and Grandfather" or "Loving Wife."
As I thought about his assignment later, I wondered if there were examples of obituaries in the Bible. I liked what I found in Hebrews 11. This is often called the faith chapter since it lists many ways people's strong faith helped them get through life and helped them accomplish great things for God.
Here are a few examples.
"By faith he (Cain) was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice."
Thinking about obituaries and faithful lives has been prominent in my mind recently since my mother went home to be with Jesus on Feb. 12 at the age of 97. Some years ago she sought to help us write her obituary by listing some pertinent things about her birth, family, marriage and church membership. We decided to add details about her character of faith since that faith was such a defining part of her life.
As the sympathy cards arrived, we could see that others had also seen her live out her faith. One card from Kathy particularly painted a vivid picture of her character. Kathy was in grade school with me when they moved near us. During my childhood, when a new family moved to our rural area, Mom was one of the first to extend an invitation to church. I remember picking Kathy up for church and Sunday school every week for many years. Kathy went on to say that she will always be grateful for this since it marked the beginning of her spiritual growth. Other comments on cards referred to Mom's love and passion for others. Some talked of her warm hand shake, snug hug and her bright smile born out of her faith. I am grateful for and challenged by my mother's example of Godly faithfulness.
So, if we had to write our obituary, what would we include? Do we need to change our focus in life now so our obituary reflects what is most important when God calls us home? Will we leave behind a legacy of a character built on faith in God?
Helen McCormack writes the Reflections column every six weeks. She and her husband, David, are serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Germany.