What Elizabeth Taylor Is Teaching Me About Legacy

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What will your legacy be?

Hollywood legend, Elizabeth Taylor, died at the age of 79. I wouldn’t call myself an Elizabeth Taylor fan. Even so, I was fascinated by the conversation her death started, namely, “What is Elizabeth’s legacy?”

Some headlines champion Liz as the last great movie star. Others say AIDS advocacy was her leading role. Some writers claimed that winning the Oscar was her crowning achievement. Others say it paled in comparison to her status as timeless beauty and world renowned “bombshell.” The movies, the husbands, the jewels, the magazine cover shoots...no one can quite hone in on the source of her fame and the reason why her legacy will last.

All of this has me thinking about my own death. Not in a morbid way. I don’t wonder who will attend my funeral or what hymns will be played as I’m returned to the dust. But, I want my mark on this world to be clear. I don’t want anyone to doubt that my most important role was “follower of Christ” and that my crowning achievement was serving Him faithfully.

God must have known about the power of death to push us to ponder what really matters:

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

This verse isn’t encouraging us to be funeral crashers or to become so fixated on death that we can’t enjoy living. Rather, this passage is simply a reminder that we all face the same fate. Life is but a vapor. Not a single one of us will escape the inevitability of death. And when we spend too much time at festivals and not enough time at funerals, ho-hum days can swallow our life whole and leave people wondering, “What was her legacy, anyway?”

So, would you take a moment to attend your own funeral? Would you allow yourself to think about the brevity of life for a moment and ask yourself, “What is my legacy?” If you come up with answers like, “loving wife,” “great mom,” or “retired nurse,” know that those are good answers. It is good to make a mark on the world by loving others well or giving your all to a career that you value. But let me encourage you dig deeper and to think through how not to be like Liz. Don’t let there be any question when you’re gone that following Jesus was your most important role. Take some time to examine how you can re-shape how you’re living to make glorifying Him and carrying out the ministry He has called you to your number one priority.

I doubt my death will make headlines. But if it does, I want them to say, “Radical follower of Christ, Erin Davis, died serving her king.”

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