Lately I’ve been thinking about what we all need to hear from friends and family. At the memorial service Saturday for my friend Stephanie, I was deeply touched by the verbal tributes given to her life. I hope she was aware of how people felt about her and her influence on so many lives.
I thought of what we should have said to her in her last days and hours, and I hope some people did. I told her I loved her, but that seems almost trivial in the whole scheme of life and death. Most of us have someone who will say “I love you,” but I think we all need to hear more than that.
The first thing I wish I’d told her was “You made a difference in my life,” for she did. Her powerful faith and evangelistic spirit constantly humbled me and made me want to be stronger in reaching out to those who might not know Jesus. Her knowledge of the Scriptures stimulated me to study my Bible more. Her prayers for me, which prompted early morning texts, challenged me more often to tell people when I was praying for them. I should have told her all that, but I didn’t. Did “I love you” carry all that to her spirit? Probably not.
The next thing I think she wanted to hear was “You made a difference in many lives.” She’s told us of the influence she’s had on her nieces and nephews and on her entire family for bringing them to Christ. She would have liked to have been reminded of that. I wish someone had asked for a show of hands if Stephanie was the reason they were Christians today. From all I saw and heard, it would have been an astonishing number. She was a joyous and powerful Christian influence.
The third thing she would have liked to have heard was “You made a difference in the world.” She was earnest about the need for racial reconciliation, and she made a difference in her community and in Cincinnati. People spoke of community activities in which she had made a difference. Who knows how far her influence spread?
Not all of us can say we made a difference in the world. That’s a pretty big statement. But all of us can make a difference in specific lives. All of us can make the effort to influence others—not just for good, but for Jesus Christ. When we do good, we can say, “I’m doing this in the name of Jesus,” or “I’m giving you this in the name of Jesus.” Our friend David has taught me that, as he announces that to our Wednesday guests at the Bread of Life Café.
Yes, I constantly want to do more, wherever I am. But more than that, I want to tell people more about how they’ve influenced me or others. I want to say, “Your example made me want to do the same,” or “Your generosity prompted me to give more,” or “Your showing up at just the right time made me be more spontaneous in showing up for people.”
I really want to put aside my selfish nature and not only do more for others but also tell them how their lives have affected me. Doing is certainly important, and I don’t mean to negate that, but affirming others is important also. One on one, I must tell people what they mean to me and how they’ve influenced me for good.
I’d better start today. I don’t want simply to float through life, which is my inclination. I want to start today, living so I can make a difference somewhere to someone. And especially to tell others they are making a difference.
If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11