Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3.23
You’ve heard the short story. You probably had it read to you as a child or maybe you stumbled on it as a young adult. Christian bookstore shelves often display it in the form of journals, plaques, jewelry, book covers…you name it.
It was then that I carried you…
But, those are not the type of footprints I’m talking about.
I’m talking about “impact”
…about touching lives…
…about sharing our hearts, our very lives with those around us, just as Jesus did…
…about the legacy God equips each of us to leave for His glory.
IMPACT (noun/verb): the striking of one thing against another; influence; effect; alter
Many things, events and people can impact our lives on a day-to-day basis. They affect our daily decisions, how we think, how we feel, how we act, etc.
Stubbing your toe on the corner of the queen-sized bed in the middle of the night, the guy in the beat up Pontiac who cut you off and failed to use his blinker on your way to work this morning, the letter or phone call from an ex (friend, spouse, significant other, etc.) regarding some “thing” that needs to be addressed in the most inconvenient way possible, or that nagging term paper that’s due, oh, tomorrow…all of these can have a negative impact on your entire day.
Just look at this poor panda (had to include this):
According to the meme at the bottom of the photo, one can only assume the kind of day he will have.
Everything we experience can have a profound affect (negative or positive) on our lives. Every little thing.
Let me take you beyond the mundane for a moment and look at something larger; something that actually matters.
Have you ever had a positive impact or influence on another person’s life (that you’re aware of at least)?
“Yes” and “No” are both valid answers here.
Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this very few times in my 28 year existence. Several individuals took the time to tell me that God used me in some way, shape or form in leaving a lasting impact on their lives and in doing so, they impacted mine…soothing my soul with words of affirmation and making my heart smile. Mind if I share a few with you?
- The young woman, my age (19 at the time), who spent the majority of our mission trip intimidated by me…but by the end of our summer, told me that God had impacted her life through mine as she watched how I lived out each day.
- The woman I spent days working with behind a jewelers’ counter. I still wear the ring she made me to remind me of how God had turned her life around.
- The young man who goes by “Red.” I’ll never forget him…just going there brings a smile to my face.
- The college roommate I lived with for three years.
- Past and current co-workers; past managers.
- Some of my best friends…they go out of their way often to lift me up with those words of encouragement and I appreciate and am thankful for them all very much.
- The quiet, intriguing man who, after spending hours on a roadtrip with me, made a statement that gapped the silence in that moment and still echoes within the corners of my mind.
- My mom.
- My younger siblings.
These are just a few that come to my mind in thinking about this topic. I may never know the level of impact my life has had on others.
Flavia Weedn captured this affect perfectly when she said:
Some people come into our lives and quickly go. [Others] stay for a while and leave footprints…and we are never, ever the same.
There is something to be said about journeying with another individual for a season or more, however long God calls you to do so. For that moment, for that amount of time, your life touches another’s, and vice versa, and we are never the same after. We grow. We bend. We break. We grow more. We probably pick up on a few tendencies of that person. We become more and more like those we spend time with. Did you know that? And that, my friends, can be either a good or a bad thing.
So…how does one become the type of person who leaves an impact?
Honestly, we all leave one…good and/or bad.
Personally, I’d blame the parents but…kidding, Mom (I know you read these). They do play a rather large role in who you become. Believe it. Children don’t go by what a parent says…they live the way the parent does. They go by what they see. Profound, I know, but very, very true. If a person says they’ll do something, they’d better have the character and integrity to live it out. Words are not enough in and of themselves.
But primarily, I point to the relationship I have with Jesus. It’s through Scripture, through prayer, through constantly spending time with Him and others who live the same way and believe that He is God and that He is ultimately good. It’s through being fed through your own personal reading of the Bible each day and through regular attendance at church and group study and it even happens when you pour out what you’ve been given or learned into the lives of those around you.
Studies have shown that those who listen to or read Scripture regularly (more than once a week) are less likely to engage in what many have deemed some of the worst sins: pornography, gambling, excessive drinking, drugs, etc. These people are more active in their communities, lead a Bible study or actively share their faith with and disciple others.
Getting into God’s Word and letting it get into us is essential. Amazing things can and have happened and life can be had to the full. (John 10.10)
My church here in Minneapolis just started a serious called “Heroes of Faith” and they touched on the story of Naomi and Ruth. We discussed this week at Bible study the impact that Naomi had on Ruth.
A little background: Naomi was living in a time of famine. She had relocated to Moab with her husband in search of a better life. It was in Moab where she lost everything: her husband and eventually her two sons. She also had a relationship with God. She knew Him. She trusted Him. She blamed Him. She had briefly lost faith, but had no idea that her ray of hope would manifest through her relationship and love for Ruth, her daughter-in-law…who was also now a widow.
Naomi had made the decision to return to her home in Bethlehem and gave her daughter-in-laws a way out; to return home to Moab and start over. But Ruth, precious Ruth…she clung to Naomi instead:
“Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” Ruth 1.16-18
Ruth was faithful to Naomi. Naomi was faithful to God. In turn, Ruth eventually became faithful to both Naomi and to God. And if you take the time to really look at the story and ask the question why Ruth was so faithful…
Well, it was because of Naomi’s character and her Covering: God. Ruth was drawn to the way that Naomi lived her life – according to Godly standards. Naomi was selfless and was quick to consider the needs of others. Naomi allowed Ruth to see and feel the joy and anguish in her relationship with God. It was that relationship that was at the core of Naomi and Ruth’s relationship.
Can you think of someone that you admire that much? Someone who has a true relationship with God and is concerned about helping others to reach their best potential? Someone who considers the needs of others and not just their own?
“Love one another as I have loved you.” –Jesus
I’ve discovered that I don’t have to go out of my way (although sometimes I’m called to) to find ways to love another person the way Christ loves me; they way He loves us all. I simply have to choose to love those God has placed in my life right now. That could be my neighbor across the hall who’s struggling with finding a job. It could be the man sleeping on the bus stop bench that I see on my way to work in the morning. It could be my coworker, someone I’ve known for a long time, who just lost his sister. Anyone.
It’s a choice. A choice to care; to show compassion; to be kind; to help in any way I can. A choice to love. I just have be ready to serve and be willing to let others see Jesus live through me. In doing that…God uses me as a vessel to impact my world, which He’s given me.
It’s not me. It’s all Him. I’m simply choosing to let Him to use me in that way and trusting that He will come through.
Has your life been impacted by another’s? Take the time to tell them, to thank them and do it soon, if not today.
I’ve often visualized it as the ripple effect. You’ve seen how water ripples and moves until it hits something (a solid object or another ripple); how it stops and turns direction or molds itself to another. Amazing, isn’t it?
That’s exactly what happens when our lives cross paths and intertwine for however long God allows, whether it’s a few hours to a lifetime. Ebb and flow. Give and take.
Do you know of the lives you’ve personally impacted? Side hint: if you’re a parent you do. If you’re a teacher, you do. If you’re a manager, you do. If you work with people; you do.
And fortunately, we will never know the full extent of the impact we’ve had on the lives of those who come and go or stay in each of our lives, until we are standing before God.
Make the choice. Seek. Go. Serve.
Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. Proverbs 18.24