Over the past few weeks, I have been struggling with a question to myself, “What is my legacy?” I am a Christian, a disciple maker and try to live my life in that fashion every day. I grew up in the church of my Baptist minister father but struggled with my faith as a young man. In February of 2007 I had a life changing event and since then my faith has been unshakable.
My internal question of legacy surfaced when the father of a good friend recently passed away somewhat unexpectedly. In support of my friend, I attended the funeral. During the service, the pastor mentioned several times that my friend’s father, Blaine, although not perfect, he had spent the last 10 years in the church praising God and volunteering in the nursery. The pastor briefly talked about times that Blaine had struggled in his walk with God, yet he faithfully would come back around. Despite life’s up and downs he closed the funeral service sharing about Blaine’s “strong finish” and now he sits with Jesus Christ for eternity.
As often happens to me when I attend funerals, I wonder what will be said in my eulogy. On the winding journey that is my life, there are many things that have defined me. I have been a husband, father, brother, son, student, teacher, college graduate, correctional officer, parole officer, entrepreneur, mentor, philanthropist, inmate, and war veteran. Just to name a few.
The most defining role of my life is likely the time I spent in the war. I am a veteran, although of a different sort. Please hold the applause and let me explain. I am not a military veteran of a foreign war in the typical sense. I am the type of war veteran that you may encounter daily but would not know. I am a veteran of the war on drugs, and all together I served over 20 years. Unfortunately, I have been in the trenches on both sides of the fight. I worked my way through college as a correction officer and promoted to parole office once I graduated with a bachelor’s in criminal justice in 1997. Later in life, I made a fateful choice to get involved in a federal drug trafficking conspiracy. For that decision, and the bad decisions that followed, I was arrested in 2006 and served almost 8 years in federal prison and 5 years on federal probation.
Shortly after my arrest, I made the choice to live my life in a way that I would not be embarrassed for anyone to know, including my parents, grandparents and, of course, God. I committed to be more than just a church going Christian, I dedicated my life to being a disciple of Jesus. Jesus calls us to so much more than just attending church. His life was given so that we might have life.
Since my release from prison almost 10 years ago I have promised God that I would pay closer attention to the path he lays out, and to follow Him on that path without question. God has taken me from a broken-down piece of a man rationalizing my actions to gain “financial security” to the healthy disciple I am today. God has given me the opportunity to travel the world on over a dozen mission trips, lead Bible study at my place of work, revisit the prison I was incarcerated in to talk to others preparing for release, share my testimony to anyone that will listen, and speak to youth groups about the potential cost of bad decisions. I have given my life back to Christ so that he might use me to inspire another to begin the walk of being a disciple.
At my eulogy, I of course want the pastor to talk about my “strong finish.” I also want the pastor to talk openly about my faults and my sins. All my actions and experiences, whether they were failures, successes, mistakes, good deeds or bad, are what made me the man I am today. Most importantly, I want the pastor to tell everyone in attendance that, despite my sinful nature, I was forgiven and saved by God’s grace. I walked this life as a committed disciple of Jesus Christ, finishing strong the work He called me to.
God’s grace is amazing, abundant, and available to everyone, including Blaine. As I write this, I cannot think of a better message in my eulogy. “This man was forgiven by God and lead to be a Christian soldier. You can be too, no matter what lay in your past.”
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4)
by John Taylor – Volunteer
Real Life Ministries Texas