the secret to leaving a legacy

Have you ever sacrificed particular food groups for a season, and braced your family and friends for the inevitable withdrawal rage? But to your surprise, after the initial pain, you found your life was actually better because you were no longer dependent on your unhealthy vice?

Recently, I noticed I was neglecting my health. In the midst of the stresses of work, church, school and family, I was not prioritizing healthy eating or regular exercise. I knew I needed to do something to make this a priority. So I did the unthinkable (for me, anyway): I tried going vegan for a month. No meats, dairy, or animal products at all. I wasn’t excited about it, but I knew it would be a sure way to kick some bad habits, and get me back on track. The first few days were hard. All I wanted to do was eat a hamburger, or anything smothered in cheese with bacon on top.

After the initial longings faded, my body began to adjust to the new diet. A few weeks passed, and I realized I felt distinctly better. I felt lighter from eating foods that were easier to digest, my skin looked fresh, and I had more energy. It’s easy to believe that choosing healthier eating habits may actually make your life worse, but in fact it does the opposite. Being a healthy steward of my body didn’t rob me of joy, it actually gave me freedom to enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle I didn’t have when I was regularly eating fatty foods.

“Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” While this was true of a change I needed to make in my diet, there was a deeper problem. My issue was not primarily that I needed to pursue better eating habits. My problem was my mindset. I saw my health as something that I could neglect, even use. Once I decided to see my health as an investment I needed to make, everything changed! I realized God cares about how I invest my life, including my work, my relationships, my finances, and my health!

Taking it one step further, God also cares about how I invest my life, because if done well, I will leave a legacy that points future generations to Him. Here are some lessons I learned from this experience as I reflect on the legacy I want to shape with my life:

1. We are stewards, not owners.

1 Corinthians 4:7 poses the question “What do you have that you did not receive?” Everything that we have is not our own. God has given it to us. When we view everything we have with that perspective, it frees us up to live generously. That mindset allows for less worry about protecting our stuff, and gives us the ability to focus on taking care of what we have and using it for God’s purposes.

2. Freedom comes through sacrifice, not selfishness.

In the words of Jesus from Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The way of Christianity is denial of self, to take up Christ. Our selfish desires can often be exactly what is holding us back from true fulfillment. Our joy in life is not found in what we have or in worldly comforts – but in Who we have. While healthy boundaries may not sound fun or exciting, they actually give us more freedom to live life well.

3. Choose to spend your life or invest it.

A meaningful life is invested in things that matter. There are many things that pull for our time, and it is easy to get distracted with the trivial. But if we have a long-term perspective, we can make better decisions today. And what is more long term than eternity? My grandpa, David Green, always says, “There are two things that are eternal: the human soul, and God’s Word.” He reminds us of this so that we will be intentional to invest our time in those things that are eternal.

When we live life as stewards, sacrificially loving others, and keeping an eternal mindset, our lives will create a powerful legacy. And what exactly is legacy? I like to think of legacy as outliving your life. It’s what you leave behind once you are gone. We each have the opportunity to shape an impactful legacy. What legacy are you shaping?

Lauren Green McAfee

Lauren Green McAfee and her mother, Jackie Green, are the co-authors of the new book Only One Life, How A Woman’s Every Day Shapes An Eternal Legacy.   

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