MILLIONS of young people secretly worry that their lives will actually have been worth the bother of living them, and much the same could also be said for a significant portion of the older population.
What will be the reason your life was worth the bother? What will set your life apart as having been worth the effort?
For young people the notion of legacy proves confusing; they have no idea what will prove to be worth the effort of living a full life — full of pain and grief (reality) amidst the fleeting joys (reality) and manufactured excitement of a life (denial). They have no idea because they have no vision, and they have no vision because they haven’t arrived at children yet.
There is no purpose in legacy until we have children, or we have dependents in some fashion of understanding. As soon as we realise we’re going to die one day, and that these younger persons we brought to earth will survive us, we begin to think in terms that we must make this life work — for them!
It’s suddenly no longer about us; that our abuse of life and the planet matters.
Suddenly significance abounds and it subsumes our previously pathetic little vision of life.
The apostle John mentioned that he had no greater joy than seeing his children walk in the truth (3 John 4). And this is part of the conundrum of life; suddenly, as we work out that what our children do or don’t do matters, we begin to think in glowing terms or in terms that sees our joy recede that show the bald spots of regret.
Our lives will have been worth the bother if our children carry the lantern.
What lantern? The lantern of life.
It doesn’t matter if we haven’t carried that lantern particularly well, but therein lies the trouble. Our children inevitably follow something of our example. If we’ve lived unwisely, they’ll be carrying a burned out lantern like we did. If we’ve made them live a tough life, they’ll be carrying a resentfully harshly lit lantern. If we’ve been too permissive, they’ll have hardly bothered to turn their lantern on. But if the lantern we’ve attempted to carry was a light for others, they’ll inevitably choose to carry that same light. The paradox here is our children see a loving sacrifice in a favourable light only if we were wise enough to consider them — i.e. we loved them before we loved others.
The lantern of life is the legacy of meaning and of being we realise we’ve carried all our lives. It’s a cruel blow to us if we find those coming after us don’t, won’t or can’t carry it. This lantern is always for the next generation.
Our message for the coming generation is this: get out of yourselves and get into life, the plight of others, and the meaning of life itself: God.
This is the reason your life will have been worth the bother of doing it at all.
And if parents know these lessons well, how much better do grandparents?
© 2016 Steve Wickham.