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Leaving a Legacy

I heard a sermon recently about the generational affects that one man or one woman can make through their life, belief, and passion.  It set me to thinking about the people whom I admire and wish to emulate.  There are those individuals who are so large in life, they cast a shadow across time and history by how they lived, led, and loved.  In the United States we have figures like that sprinkled through our history, Presidents, Senators, and Generals. 


The two who stand out, of course, are George Washington, the founding father, and Abraham Lincoln.  Washington was both General and President – a man who through sheer force of will forged a victory against the top world power in overcoming England.  Then there was Abraham Lincoln, who literally gave his life for his country.  Who exhausted his mental, physical, and emotional faculties to preserve the union that Washington had fought so hard to forge. 


In both cases, these men stood physically taller than those around them.  In both cases, the words and phrases of their letters and speeches have shaped what our democracy means and stands for.  In both cases, they were driven by a single purpose – one to forge a nation and the other to preserve it – that was the over whelming priority of their life.  And to achieve that priority they set aside wives, children, friends, comfort, and personal gain. 


And in both cases, what I have come to admire about them is their ability to see and reach beyond the present circumstance toward a brighter future they not only imagined but helped to shape and create.  They believed innately what the poet Robert Browning captured in his poem, “Andrea del Sarto,”


A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,

Or what’s a heaven for?


Both men were insanely ambitious, had dreams and aspirations that were ridiculous to believe.  Washington had served as Colonel over a Virginia regiment during the French and Indian War, but he’d never been the General of an entire army.  Yet he felt compelled to lead a war against England, the mightiest power in the world at the time.  Lincoln had served one term in Congress but had lost two elections for the U.S. Senate, yet he remained convinced he could be President of the United States!  Many people told him it wasn’t hope, but lunacy.  What Washington and Lincoln understood though, was that to achieve your dreams, to become all that you want to be and hope to be, you have to get out of your comfort zone.  You have to reach farther than you ever dared and beyond what is in your grasp. 


And in that moment, when you reach beyond what you only thought was possible to dare for the impossible, and trust that God will catch you should you fall, you leave a legacy.  Sometimes it’s a legacy for an entire nation.  Sometimes it’s a legacy for your daughter or son.  Sometimes it’s a private legacy for your self.  But one thing is always true:  the greater the reach, the greater the legacy.

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