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Janice M. Wilson has been a writer since her early teens, and has won several poetry contests, and published stories in the The Inspirer, More.com, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You. She works on short stories and novels, and facilitates a writers’ group based in southern New Jersey, where she lives with her daughter.
WHAT WILL BE YOUR LEGACY?
By Janice Wilson
Two older people, a man and a woman, were in front of me while standing in line for a hot dog one day, and apparently they knew each other from years ago. While catching up on their lives, a mutual friend’s name, Frank, was mentioned. The man shared the sad news that their beloved friend was dying. I could see tears in the woman’s eyes as she recalled to her companion how this special friend nearly lost his job in helping her husband to find employment across the country. The man recalled how Frank never passed up an opportunity to help anyone and he shared his own experiences and memories of him. They chatted about so many wonderful things about Frank. He was not even gone yet, but both those people knew he would soon pass on, and stated very confidently that they would see him again later at home in Heaven1.
With my dad being so close to death like their friend was, I was listening intently to what they were saying. It wasn’t hard to recall some wonderful things my father did in his lifetime. He was very giving with his time, support, and he was always listening. The most memorable things were how both my parents cared for me during my early years as a child born without hip sockets, and visited me daily in the hospital I practically lived in for five years which was a whole state away from home. I’ll never forget all the things they lovingly did for me. My dad will be greatly missed by many people when he dies.
But what about me? What would people say about me when I am on my death bed? What have I done in my 22 years to deserve such a blessed epitaph and memorial? Did I do anything sacrificially to help people? By the time I finished my lunch, I was feeling pretty down and disgusted with my life. It was nothing but a series of reruns – joyless days of work, studying, cleaning, bearing the arthritic pain in my hip, and very little fun2. My math and chemistry classes were too hard and I was losing all hope in becoming the famous marine biologist I always dreamed of. The only joy in my life now was my husband and sometimes I honestly didn’t know why because I had very few friends throughout my young life, and a burdensome health problem. No one had ever wanted to bother with a crippled kid and I had moved around too many times to make lasting friendships anyway. I felt I was just barely existing in this world and leaving it without any accomplishments.
Through a series of months I looked into making changes, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I could not change my life style as all I did every day were essential things, but I knew there was more for me. I also wondered why I was born with so many problems, and I was tired of people noticing me only because of my limp. I recalled the peace of mind the people in line had about dying and I could only hope to go to Heaven. I wanted to be free from fear of death, to know for certain what was after it, and to be remembered like Frank for making a difference in other peoples’ lives.
A friend told me many years prior about how Jesus saves, and I believed it and accepted His free gift of grace and salvation back then, but didn’t quite understand it all. But at this time of my life I remembered this and felt compelled to go back to the Lord with my problems. After all, He made me and He was the only One who knew the reason for my health problems and why I felt so alone. I told the Lord I was sorry for brushing Him aside during my youth and asked Him to forgive me for all the bad things I ever did and for the anger I felt because of my handicap3. I invited Him to show me and lead me in a direction that I could be the most useful to someone or something, even with my bad legs because I could not find that by myself – nothing I did seemed to change my life. Cleansing tears poured from my eyes and I felt a warmth come over me as the Lord came into my life and relieved me of my many burdens4. He promised in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you“, and from that day forward I never felt alone again. I did not know what truly happened to me until a friend told me how I was a new person5 and I could actually look forward to Heaven6, and I started to read the bible on a daily basis and understand more.
Eventually I began to accept my limp. It didn’t seem to matter anymore what other people thought of me – I knew the Lord loved me and I grew more confident of my worth to the Lord and the life He had planned for me. Though the dreams of studying marine mammals beside Jacques Cousteau can only be a fond memory as I was not smart enough to do that, God has taken all my lonely nights spent writing journals and stories during my adolescent years and uses my skills for His good purposes. He’s also blessed me with a perfectly healthy baby girl. Since then, a lot of things have changed in my life, not all good, and yet the Lord still continues to provide for us.
I am always amazed at God’s awesome timing. He effectively uses my handicap as an opportunity for me to share my faith in Him and my anticipation of His approaching Kingdom for eternity with a healed body7. My legs used to ache almost daily, but the Lord made a way for me to have them fixed, and now I can do almost everything anyone else could do. I love the opportunity to say how much I love the Lord regardless of a small disability and how He got me through it all.
Thanks to those two people standing in line for being a witness and not even knowing it. Their friend, Frank, left behind such a legacy that it even affected me, a total stranger, enough to give my life to the Lord. But I will see him and his friends someday in Paradise, and my dad too, whom I had the opportunity to introduce to the Lord before he passed away.
Take a look at your life. What will become of your name and legacy when you pass on8? Where are you going? Good deeds are not the currency you need to get through the pearly gates9; it is simply GRACE. Salvation was God’s work, not ours, and He finished it with Jesus’ death on the cross for us. Grace is the free gift to those who repent and truly believe and accept it! Everything I tried to do didn’t change my empty heart, life and mind until I gave it to God to fill with His grace, love, strength, and power to do things His way10. JESUS IS INDEED LORD!
For those of you who are already Christians, how are you witnessing through words and deeds? Would you convince someone who is watching and listening to turn to Christ? Now may be a good time to re-evaluate your lifestyle.
Ephesians 2:8,9/Philippians 3:9/Jeremiah 17:5
10. Philippians 3:8-11
Verily verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.)
Repent and believe the Gospel” Mark 1:15
2 cor 5:17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.