Making lasting footprints
Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson
November 28, 2018
As I sat on the beach, I watched the waves crash and roll repeatedly onto the shore. It was a hypnotic reverie. The tide comes in; the tide goes out. And with the power of the surf, the landscape is leveled. Intricately constructed sandcastles erode. The footprints of children playing or lovers walking on the beach are washed away. What
This truth is not confined to sand and surf, for our lives are just as fleeting. I am reminded of the character Chicharrón in the movie “Coco.” He was said to have died a second death because his spirit vanished when there was no one in the land of the living to remember him. Like footprints washing away on the beach, our individual imprints in this life last a short while. Will we be remembered for two or three generations, possibly four? We are ephemeral and transient.
Sharing these thoughts with a friend, I remarked with pride
A staple anthem in the black church intones, “You may build great cathedrals large or small. You may build skyscrapers grand and tall. You may conquer all the failures of your past. But only what you do for Christ will last.” What is it that we are doing for God through Jesus Christ that will last? Have we built up our communities by investing our time, talent, and treasure so that others might have access to resources? Are we sowing into our children so that they may have greater and expanded opportunities? Are we helping to tear down divides so that we might realize peace and understanding?
Too much of what we are seeing in society is about sowing discord and division. Rather than celebrate someone who is doing a good work, we want to find fault. Rather than seeking unity, we are increasingly isolationist with a desire to build walls. We say, “I’ve got mine; you’ll have to go elsewhere to get yours,” forgetting that only generations ago, our ancestors were the ones who had nothing before being given access to resources and opportunities. We are seeing the worst in humanity: a grabbing, clutching selfishness that gets ahead by standing on the backs of the disenfranchised, asserting an individualistic and privileged exceptionalism that is gained at the expense of those whom we label as other.
If we believe the truth of the lyric that only what we do for Christ will last, we can take some comfort in the fact that these destructive tendencies of the present will pass away like a surf-soaked sandcastle. But what damage is done in the aftermath? Will we suffer two, three, or four generations of people who believe that isolationist policies and privileged exceptionalism are a birthright for some and not others? God forbid! This is when we who are followers of Jesus Christ must effectively shovel against the tide so that the narrative under which too many operate is changed. Christ died for all, not for some. Therefore, we must intercede for all. This is the work that will last.
Will we suffer two, three, or four generations of people who believe that isolationist policies and privileged exceptionalism are a birthright for some and not others? God forbid! This is when we who are followers of Jesus Christ must effectively shovel against the tide so that the narrative under which too many operate is changed. Christ died for all, not for some. Therefore, we must intercede for all. This is the work that will last.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously stated, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place.” But longevity isn’t enough. Like an eroding surf, longevity alone has a three-generation span of influence for most of us because few of us will achieve the notoriety that dictates more. Few will realize the success of an improved
I’m looking for permanence. I’m looking to make a lasting difference. That means that someone must come to know Christ through me. Moreover, that means that when I see and hear injustice, and God knows I need only turn on the news to hear the onslaught of injustices, I must exercise my righteous indignation, speaking out and asserting my influence in the corners where I live and work. It is an uphill battle. The inertia of this societal present age rushes in to reduce my efforts
The Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson is director of lifelong learning at Yale Divinity School. Her book Spiritual Practices for Effective Leadership: 7Rs of SANCTUARY for Pastors is available through Judson Press.
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