FROM THE ‘DEEP’ END: How do you really want to be remembered?

Eric Partin
Eric Partin

A few years ago I was part of a team that coached and trained pastors to plant churches. One of my responsibilities on this team was to read lots of books about leadership and ministry so that I would have fresh insight to give these pastors.

One of those books was "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Steven R Covey. There are some places in the book where Covey would ask a question and then tell the reader to stop, get out a notebook and pen and take some time to answer the questions. I never did it though. When you’re assigned books to read it can be pretty tempting to read for the sake of finishing the book rather than immersing yourself in it, so I would always read over these thought exercises and never actually do them. One of these exercises went something like this: Imagine it’s three years from now and you’re attending your own funeral. Your spouse is there, your children and grandchildren are there and so are your closest friends and co-workers. What would you want each one of them to say about you?

It wasn’t until recently that I remembered that exercise and it made me wish I hadn’t skipped over it. In fact, I ended up pulling out the book, getting my notebook and pen and answering the prompt. I realized what is so important and revealing about that question. I realized the way you answer that question tells you everything you need to know about what you value in life. That’s important to remember because when we make decisions we often conflate what we value in life with what we want in the moment.

If someone asked you what you want out of life it probably wouldn’t take you long to come with a short list from “the good life.” Maybe your list includes career success, a good family, or being able to travel. Those are all nice things to want, but they’re really just fleeting desires. While answering this “funeral question” for myself I realized a few things. I realized I don’t want the people closest to me to talk about how much cool stuff I had, how quickly I advanced in my career or how many amazing places I traveled to. I want them to talk about the type of person I was. That I was honest and trustworthy. That I was a man of my word and always tried my hardest to follow through on a promise. I want them to say that I left behind a legacy for my children and grandchildren. Those are the things I value.

There is a conflict within all of us to discard our values so that we can chase after the things we want. The Apostle Paul summed it up simply in Romans 7:15 when he said:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Even if you know in your heart that your own desires are fleeting and chasing after them doesn’t lead to fulfillment, it’s still really easy to choose what we want over what we value. That’s because we’re afraid. We’re afraid we’re going to miss out on everything thrilling and satisfying in life if we don’t feed those wants. But it’s not true. In fact a lot of times it’s the opposite, and if we’re Christ followers we need to ask ourselves another question. We need to ask ourselves not just what do we value, but what does God value? What does God value for us? If you read Galatians 5:22-23 it tells us what a fulfilled life looks like to God:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

God wants “the good life” for us, but it’s not about accomplishments or stuff. It’s about peace, joy, love and kindness. It’s about true fulfillment. If we decipher what we really value from what are fleeting wants in our life, we can look back on our lives knowing we lived a valuable life.

Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at