|Shadows by Dr. Ross Riggs|
What Shadow Will You Leave?
Have you ever thought through as to what will remain of you, your memory, your legacy when you are gone? Most of us try to never think about what it will be like when we are gone because we cannot imagine the world going on without us. We like to be part of the everyday routines, the family gatherings, and the career we have spent so much of our life trying to build. Even those of us who count ourselves Christ-followers and have no fear of death but anticipate only the joy of heaven seldom try to imagine what the world, our world, our house, our home, our everyday interactions could be like without us present. Ebenezer Scrooge got a foretaste of his cronies gathering in the marketplace and doing business without him there and talking badly about his demise. The idea of us being anywhere but here and those we see every day going on about their life without us is just something we would prefer not to consider. Perhaps, though, we should.
I wrote, early after my diagnosis, that more people should take the opportunity to follow the song-writer’s admonition and “live like you are dying[i].” Part of living like you are dying is to treasure each day and take stock as to what kind of impact you are having on others each day. The smallest of gestures, the smile to a stranger you pass on the street, stopping to help a person whose car has left them stranded along the roadside, and the thank you to your hostess may do more good than you can ever imagine. The random acts of kindness may just lighten the load of your fellow life travelers a bit and they may help define the length of your shadow.
The Psalmist asks of God, “Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.”[ii] Other Scriptures speak of the brevity of life with similar analogies. This one, however, is poignant to me. Shadows do fade as quickly as they appear, it seems. As I walked along the wood-line, returning from a short trek into the woods, I noticed my own shadow clearly against a tree. As I moved, or as the sun continued to slide to its horizon, my shadow would disappear among the other shades of gray in the midst of the fallen leaves and branches. The sharp monochrome image of me disappeared as quickly as it came.
I know that I cannot change the duration of my shadow here but, by the grace of God, I can change the impact my life may leave on others. There are those who seem to struggle against doing random acts of kindness, as if something inside of them drives them to remember wrongs, real or perceived, committed against them. These must be carried about to throw, like a snowball rolled in a cow pasture, at any who commit a trespass against them, no matter how slight. Some of these folks you will find in a church pew on Sunday mornings. Rather than be railed against, they should be prayed for. They are losing what joy can be had in sharing joy with others.
Still, I am responsible for me, for my shadow. Though its physical presence may appear for a short time and be gone, the shadows which linger in the memories of those we have touched with our life have a much more persistent existence. How we are remembered by those closest to us matters greatly, for me at least. I am genuinely blessed with a loving family and many grandchildren. Each of them is eager to see me come and prefers not to see me go. The news of my disease struck harshly with them and it is nearly impossible for them to fathom. I have had much more time with some than others of my grandchildren and I hope the Lord will allow me many more years to share with them. I ask that He allow my shadow to gain a deep, rich quality that time alone will not quickly erase. James writes, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.”[iii] What better a perfect gift than that of sharing the joy of Christ with another.
[i] Written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, Performed by Tim McGraw, Curb Records, 2004
[iii] James 1:17 NIV