When I was a younger man, I had dreams — illusions, really — about the tremendous impact I would have on those around me, my community, and even the world. I suppose that such dreams are positive things and the fact is that some people go on to do just that … impact the world. For most, however, it will not be so.
I am told that United States presidents, especially if they are granted a second term in office, spend much of their efforts in building and leaving a legacy. None of them wishes to be remembered as a failure and all of them hope that history will deem them to be great. Again, for most, it will not be so.
There are those like Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and a few others. But there are also presidents like Tyler, Fillmore, Harrison and others whose lights burn dimly in the lamps of history.
Others attempt to leave a legacy of political success, wealth, building great structures, writing books, or, in the case of ministers, building churches.
I used to think that the people of the churches I served would remember me with great fondness and talk about the good ‘ol days “when pastor Epps was here.”
The truth is that I have served 13 churches in four states over the last 40 years and I seriously doubt that most of them even recall that I spent any time there.
Oh, a few people may remember, perhaps, but time moves along and memories are short.
I have concluded that there are two things which will remain, at least for a time. Buildings will eventually crumble, wealth will be spent or lost, and most books will be destined for the dust bin. Even presidents will be but footnotes in history. Here, I believe, is that which will remain:
Firstly, there is family. On my father’s side, I can count back several generations and identify my great-great grandfather. His name was Alexander Epps and he lived in a place called “poor valley” in Hawkins County, Tenn.
A dirt farmer, he had two wives, the first of whom died, and a gaggle of children. He was a private in the 63rd Infantry of the Army of Tennessee, Confederate States of America who was captured at the Battle of Bean Station and was sent to a POW camp in Kentucky. At war’s end, he came home to poor valley.
His children had children and so on and, in 2012, he has a great-great grandson who has his picture hanging in his house … my house. My children and my grandchildren have an opportunity to see his picture whenever they visit. His family remains.
Secondly, that which remains is influence. Almost 40 years ago, I visited an aged shut-in who was then in her 90s. A deeply godly woman, she came to the little Methodist church when she could but mostly she was confined to her house.
During one visit, I noticed two severely worn places in the carpet in front of her sofa. When I asked what caused the carpet to be so threadbare in such a strange manner, she blushed and said, “That’s where I pray.” Her knees, where she knelt, had nearly worn holes in the thick carpet.
“Mother” Rankin, as she was called, has long since departed this earth, but her influence has been with me for four decades. As has the influence of countless people who have, and continue to have, an impact on my life.
Not all influence is positive, of course, which is why we should strive to impart only good to people.
These two things, family and influence, remain long past our own lives. Most of what we accomplish is short-lived and insignificant in the long scheme of things. But that which truly remains really does impact our world.
The simple fact is that we matter — we truly do. It doesn’t take the moving of mountains or the accomplishing something of historic significance to give us value. To those who know us and to those related to us — and to generations yet to be born — it matters that we are here.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]