Funerals are great events. Not that I enjoy the reason for the gathering, but funerals are (or should be) a celebration of life. They are a time of fellowship and remembrance of the impact of one person on the lives of those gathered, and on many more lives. They remind us of what is eternally important. Funerals are the final milestone in one life, but potentially a turning point for other lives.
I attended the funeral of a friend this past Saturday. Hundreds of people gathered to remember and celebrate the life of Jackson. Family members, former students, coworkers, and friends all spoke about his life and how they touched him. Each person came from a different segment of Jackson’s life—but each reflected a similar message from his life. Three words were repeated again and again.
Fun. Grace. And more than anything else, Jesus.
Jackson enjoyed life and knew how to engage others in enjoying life.
Jackson was forever gracious, never complaining, even in the midst of life-taking illness.
Jackson focused on Jesus every day and shared Jesus’ love in all he did.
That was Jackson’s life message: Jesus, grace, fun.
What is my life message? That’s what I kept asking myself as I reflected on my own experience with Jackson and listened to every story about his life. Well, at first I thought, “I need to be more like Jackson. I want that to be my message.” Then I realized that that was God’s message for Jackson’s life, not mine. God made me different in personality, gifting, situation, work life, family, and more. My message will be naturally different. But what is my message?
That’s what I thought about throughout the service and on the two-hour car ride home.
Try an experiment. Ask several people you know, “Please be very honest with me. Based on what you know of me, what are one or two words you would use to describe the message of my life?” Choose people from different segments of your life: friends, neighbors, coworkers, church family, spouse, kids, …
What do you learn? What are the themes? Are you surprised by anything you heard? Did you hear something you don’t like?
What you’re hearing is your evolving life message. It is evolving because your life is not yet over. People are not gathered at your funeral to read the final chapter.
Here’s the test of that message: Does it align with what God wants your message to be? If you took that evolving message to Jesus and said, “Here’s my life message so far,” what would He say?
For most of us there is a gap between the current state of our life message and where we think it should be. There are two things to do about that. First, take steps to focus on your desired message. Second, take steps to rid your life of the clutter that obscures the message. Pursue that for six months, then return to the people whom you asked your question, and ask again.
How is your life message evolving?
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo “Message in a bottle” by Kraftwerck. Available at Fickr.com.