“The greatest gift in life is to be remembered.” Ken Venturi
I was having an email conversation back-and-forth with a past student recently, and near the end of the string of messages, he asked me a really significant question. I ended my last email by saying I miss you, and when he responded, he asked “Do you really miss me? Or all of us together?” That simple, sweet, innocent question reminded me something very central to the nature of all of our hearts – everyone wants to be the one who’s remembered. Everyone wants to be that significant, special, and unable to be forgotten or replaced. Whether or not you admit it, I believe it is at the core of our being to want to be wanted.
What’s hard is that the world doesn’t make us feel this way. More often than not we are made to believe we are no more than a commodity – completely replaceable and able to be moved on from. Even those who love us best can do it. Someone moves away, or gets a different job and suddenly phone calls become more sparse and visits don’t seem as big of a priority as they were intentionally promised to be. It isn’t that the person isn’t special to you, it’s just that life gets in the way of what you thought you had time for. Each other.
I think that this is one of the biggest reasons why I find such comfort in my faith. Because to God, I’m not replaceable, I’m not returnable, I am just me. Me: exactly as he made me to be. Me: a daughter of his kingdom. I’m not going to lie, I sometimes have trouble thinking of myself in this grand way. It’s hard to make myself feel that important, but it’s not about what I think I’m worth, it’s about what God thinks I’m worth. I think the best it was ever described to me, was by my pastor. He talked about one day when he was at a birthday party with his three children, and his youngest got away. He talked about the frantic nature of their search, and how absolutely, heart-stoppingly afraid he was that his son was lost, and at such a large facility. After starting his story, he then interjected with the ridiculous thought that he had three kids, only one was lost, so why should he worry about losing only one? At least he still had two, right? This was the part of the sermon where any mother or father with decency began to open their eyes wider and wider in shock at such a ludicrous statement. What an offensive thought, that having a child or two still at home would make you be able to accept losing another … it was crazy. But then he went on to explain his metaphor; he said that’s how God feels about us. That even though he has so many wonderful, saved children, it doesn’t take away the pain, the grief, or the search for those who are still lost.
I really believe that sometimes we tend to put all our focus on being needed, noted, and worldly-significant in the here and now, without any thought to how fleeting the gratification of now really is. I tried to give just a glimpse of this idea to my middle schoolers, when I asked them to tell me 10 facts about George Washington. After about the fourth or fifth fact, they were tapped out. They didn’t really know many details of the man besides his presidential station, his hair color, who he was married to, and the fact that he had false teeth (totally vital to know). Given the idea to do this by a pastor of ours, it helped them to realize that even one of the most famous historical figures in America was now only a shadow. He was significant surely, he mattered to the fabric of our nation’s history, but not many people aside from historians truly remember the man for who he was, only what he was. And there’s a difference.
I tell my students, as I tell you now, that most of us, regardless of how successful we are in this life, will not have more than a handful of facts remembered about us in 200 years. Many of us will be lucky to even have our name somewhere, still attached to this world. I don’t say this to depress you, on the contrary, I think it is really inspiring. How can I possibly be afraid to try anything, to be anyone, if I know that here is so fleeting. It really takes away my worry of embarrassing myself, or anxiety about trying for something big and failing. Because whether I make it, or whether I don’t, is far less significant than who I become in the process. From what I have come to believe, this life is a journey that prepares us for what’s to come … for a place that isn’t fleeting, and a type of significance that cannot be washed away with time. So I hope you allow yourself to be found by the one who’s been looking for you all along. Identify yourself in God, and know with certainty that you are wanted. You are needed. And you are worth remembering.
“My legacy doesn’t matter. It isn’t important that I be remembered. It’s important that when I stand before the Lord, he says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ I want to finish strong.” James Dobson