A line from the most quoted Psalm in the Bible reads, Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…” (Ps. 23:6). The writer was totally confident that he was leaving a trail of goodness and loving kindness in his tracks. What kind of path will your life carve for those come behind you? Are you leaving behind blessing and benefit or cursing and carnage?

DSC_1896As a pastor, I’ve led hundreds of funerals over the last 35 years. I usually get a good read on the kind of trail people have left behind them. Often I’m inspired. Occasionally I’m saddened. I see the pain caused by careless living or the lack of intentionally blessing the generations that follow.

In Calvin Harper’s blog on Christian Grandparenting, he tells the story of James Boswell—the famous biographer of Samuel Johnson, an 18th century writer, poet and compiler of A Dictionary of the English Language. Boswell’s biography of Johnson became one of the most famous works of the day.

As a boy, Boswell tells of an experience when his father took him fishing. It was a day he reflected on with great fondness well into adulthood. One day that changed when, after his father’s death, James read his father’s diary. In it his father revealed his own view of that fishing day with his son: “Gone fishing today with my son; a day wasted.”

Harper concludes: “You can imagine the trail of negative emotions that must have followed James Boswell’s father for his son because of those few careless words. And if he dared to write them in his diary, one has to wonder what other messages he left in his wake.”

How do we make sure goodness and mercy is following our lives? We can learn from the Psalmist. Right before verse 6 quoted above, David wrote these words in verse 5: You [God] prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You [God] anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

It seems obvious that God’s gracious and lavish grace was filling the heart of David to overflowing so that his life was a conduit of that grace to others. The goodness of God and the recognition of God’s mercy or loving kindness filled David’s emotional and spiritual reservoir.  Out of the spillover, God’s grace trickled and even gushed over those who followed behind.

The people around us will be blessed or disheartened by the trail we leave. If our hearts are overflowing with purpose, meaning, grace and peace, there will be a stream of goodness and loving kindness following us all the days of our lives. What’s following you?

QUESTION: What are some additional ways you’ve learned to leave a trail of goodness and mercy behind you? Share it in the comments below.

 

 

3 responses to What’s Following You?

  1. Jane Miller on April 16, 2014 at 5:08 PM Reply

    The fact that Boswell read a comment in his Dad’s diary that wounded him, really hit home to me! I have kept a journal for years and years and pray that those who read it after i ‘m gone will detect the underling thread ( of love) and won’t dwell on occassionally snarky comments!

  2. Gregge Johnson on April 15, 2014 at 12:03 PM Reply

    Refresh others and you will be refreshed Everybody is fighting a war ,smile and ask how you can HELP Its refreshing to know your burdens are halfed.

  3. Judi Siegrist Stahly on April 15, 2014 at 8:42 AM Reply

    Thank you, Dennis. I always interpreted that phrase as having confidence that the Lord was going to bless him in the future as he had in the past, here on earth and on into eternity. (“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”) But you are so right about being careful of our words and reminding us that our deeds and our speech will follow us. Just a few words misspoken to a child, a student, or a friend, can burn them for years. I do understand Boswell’s father, though, because in that day, it was not looked upon kindly to be “idle” and I believe that he was not speaking of his relationship with his son, but only that he didn’t accomplish any work that day, or earn any money to provide for his family. My Grandpa Sauder always joked, though, that when God counted the days of a man’s life, he didn’t count those days that he spent fishing. Grandpa clearly understood the value of de-stressing, whether others looking on recognized it or not. Thank you, Judi

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