Someone once told me to become who I wanted to attract. To make a list of everything I wanted in a man, and to become all those things. It was a time in my life when I was not walking with God. The most natural way I knew to fill the void was to find someone to complete me. Someone who had what I so desperately wanted but couldn’t quite attain. A man. So I made the list. Much of that time in my life is somewhat obscure, but I’m pretty sure I worked to attain the characteristics I desired in a potential husband. I’m working on a different list now. The one for my memorial. An obituary of sorts. A bit morbid, maybe. But attending three funerals in as many months deposited a lingering question unanswered in my mind: How will people remember me? More than that, how do I want them to remember me? What message does my life preach? Not just my “public” life, but the one no one sees. The one of my heart. The one before my family.
One funeral was for a church elder our family had come to love. Humble, a man of few words but overwhelming love, wise, and gentle. He walked the word. His life preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. He lived it in the way he prayed – I mean really prayed – served, led, did what he said he would do, stood for truth, but did so in love. And he adored his wife. Tenderly. Sweetly. Boldly, as Christ loves the church. His life made a lasting impression for Jesus, which begs the question: Is mine?
Katie, the young girl who died tragically in a car accident about a month ago, if even that. Her funeral celebrated her love for Jesus. Her devotion to His word. The light that radiated from a heart fully devoted to Jesus. Her love for others. It begs the question: What do others see of Jesus in me?
Self examination. Brutal honesty. Truth, as God sees it. That’s what I desire as I consider what might be said of me now. How desperately I want the monologue to change knowing what I do about my insides. What you see may look pretty good, but what I see reveals the degree of my need for a Savior every day. The motives of my heart. God keeps exposing how misguided they are, even when I’m “doing good.” And the good that you see, is it God’s good or good by the world’s standards?
I want to stand before my heavenly Father blameless and harmless, a child of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom I shine as a light in the world (Philippians 2:15). I’m not talking about performance, or good works, or achieving some ideal by sheer will, determination, or my own effort. It’s not Jesus “plus” that saves us. It’s just Jesus. I’m talking about reaching an ever deeper level of absolute surrender. An all consuming love for God. A love that motivates obedience. Experiencing His grace in sanctification to the point of transformation from the inside out.
So here it is. The memorial or obituary as I hope it will one day be written:
Shauna Wallace loved the Lord her God with all her heart, mind, strength, and soul (Deuteronomy 6:5). She humbled herself and was obedient, even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). She loved her neighbor as herself (Leviticus 19:18) and was willing to lay down her life, and even more so her lifestyle for others (I John 3:16). The heart of her husband trusted her; “she did him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:11-12). She was submissive to him, honoring him in private and in public. She was a wise steward over all God entrusted her. She watched over the ways of her household and did not eat the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27). Strength and honor were her clothing; she opened her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue was the law of kindness (Proverbs 31:25-26). She trained up her children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), holding God’s word in her heart and teaching it diligently to her children, talking to them of God’s word when they sat in their house, walked by the way, lay down, and rose up (Deuteronomy 6:7). Her children call her blessed, and her husband praises her (Proverbs 31:28). Her beauty was not the outward appearance, but rather the hidden person of her heart, “with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:3-4). Even on bad days, her love for God showed in her love for others, both those close to her and those who didn’t know her at all. She was quick to listen and slow to anger, abounding in love that covered a multitude of sins. She was kind, did not envy, did not parade herself, was not puffed up, did not behave rudely, did not seek her own, was not provoked, thought no evil, and did not rejoice in iniquity. Rather, she rejoiced in truth, bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things. Her love never failed (I Corinthians 13:4-8). She was full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). She was crucified with Christ; it was no longer her life to live, but Christ livedin her; and the life she lived in the flesh, she lived by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). By His amazing grace, God saved her, by faith, and revealed Himself to others through His work in her. Today, her children love the Lord with all their heart, mind, strength, and soul, and the Lord used her to draw others to Himself because of the ways she loved unconditionally and sacrificially with the love of Christ Jesus.
I put this before the Lord as a prayer. That by the working of His Holy Spirit in me, according to His good pleasure, He will complete the good work He started in me until the day of Jesus Christ. That He will work together all things for good in order that I might reflect the character of Christ in my life. In all ways. All days. In every area. That people, most especially my family, my children, will remember Jesus in me.
Sadly, if I had to write this same obituary today, it might read more like this:
Shauna Wallace really wanted to love God with all her heart, mind, strength, and soul, but many times fell short when it got tough. She wanted to live a life of no compromise, but when culture made it hard to take a stand, she sometimes wavered. Her desire was for inner beauty to be her priority, but she spent a lot of time trying to achieve the perfect body, hair, skin, and look. She was 43, but would try anything to look no older than 29. Even though she tried to do all the right things, she was impatient and many times intolerant with her family. Her desire was to serve others, but she found herself putting herself first. She lost her temper when she was interrupted, and what she wanted often took priority over others. She didn’t really know her neighbors, and she mostly served only those who she already knew. She was a great hostess, making those she knew feel welcome in her home. She accomplished a lot, but many times at the expense of relationships. She did all the right things to have a relationship with God, but struggled to just worship Him and spend time in His presence. When she read the Bible, she many times saw herself in the lists of things God hates. When she had a lot on her mind – and that happened a lot as she took on more than she should – she’d miss things right in front of her, giving her plenty of opportunities to seek forgiveness. She had great intentions, but didn’t always have great execution. Her kids knew she loved them, but she didn’t always show them with her time. She was working on it, though, and she had a good heart.
Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Whatever the case, my hope for progress cannot be in me. I fall so repulsively short of the goal. My only source of hope is Jesus – that He will accomplish His word in me. The magnitude of my hope is equal to the depth of my despair because HE CAN DO what is impossible for me. Thank God for His grace! Thank God it isn’t my performance that saves me. Only Jesus. Thank you, Jesus!!!
Not too long ago, I ran across that list I compiled of what I wanted in a man. I have no idea where it is today, but I remember looking over it, amazed. Many of the things I desired, God had achieved, both in me, and in my man, as Jesus filled our voids and became the third strand in our marriage. Perhaps in several years I’ll happen across this obituary, amazed.
How would your obituary read today? What would your family and those closest to you remember most about you? What would neighbors say? Coworkers? Church acquaintances? Friends? Other parents? How do you want it to read? Take a few minutes to consider how you might answer. Find some scriptures you want to define you. Write them down as part of your own “obituary,” then commit it to prayer, knowing God will complete His good work in you, too.
I am humbled and moved by God’s love as I become more wholly His today.