As I write this newsletter article I am in Atlanta, GA, with my elderly dad (and mom and sister) for his last days. He’s been battling declining health for the last 20 months so we’ve been anticipating this time of saying goodbye and celebrating his life. Even though I knew it was coming, getting the call from the hospice nurse is jolting. I’ve really appreciated the moments when he is awake and aware and we are able to express gratitude for the kind of husband, dad and example he has been.
My dad was born back during the Great Depression. His dad worked long hours in a textile mill to provide for the family. He grew up in a Church of God congregation in rural Alabama that was started in the 1800s. He went to college, got his masters, and earned his EdD (Doctor of Education). He was an educator all his life – even while serving in the Air Force.
While Dad’s passion for education has certainly impacted me, what I will cherish the most is his love for Jesus and the church, as well as his love for and commitment to family. Education (teacher, principal, and college professor) was his professional life. He had a love for learning right up to his final days. But living as a follower of Jesus and being a godly patriarch was at the very depth of his being. He modeled the character of Christ to us day in and day out, during adversity and during good times. In the process he showed us what it is like to love one’s God, wife, kids, extended family and others. I am forever indebted to him for that.
David Brooks in The Road to Character (Random House, 2015) distinguishes between resume virtues and eulogy virtues. As you might expect, resume virtues are what you list on your resume as you seek to catch the attention of a church or an employer. They include things like ministry skills, accomplishments, and educational achievements. The eulogy virtues are what your family and close friends say about you at your funeral. They are the things that are at the very depth of your being and reflect who you are at your core. They are the things God is referring to when he says, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Most of our lives we pursue resume virtues. We endeavor to demonstrate our skills and accomplishments in an effort to prove our worth (often times as much to ourselves as others). These virtues are good and should be pursued. But as I reflect on my Dad’s life, what impresses me most are not his educational and career accomplishments – though they impress me. What I really value are his eulogy virtues – his love for Christ and the church, his character, his faithfulness to his values and beliefs, his love for his family and friends. I’ll remember my Dad as an accomplished educator, but I’ll cherish my Dad for the caliber of person he was and for his lived out faith in Christ.
My Dad approaching death and his entrance into God’s eternal presence is a good reminder to reflect on the legacy I am leaving my kids, grandkids and friends. I can be incredibly skilled as a pastor, leader, and ministry professional but any skills I may develop will soon be forgotten after my death. However, if I develop and model the character of Christ and cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He produces the likeness of Christ in me, then my life has a lasting impact for generations to come.
Resume virtues or eulogy virtues? Which are you pursuing in life? If you are reading this article, then I strongly suspect you value eulogy virtues the most. Wise choice. Continue to develop your skills as a pastor and Christian leader, but remember that eulogy virtues have value in this life and the life to come.
In Loving Memory of
T Lavon Talley
September 28, 1928 – February 9, 2017