Several times a year, Dr. Swindoll preaches in chapel, including Seminary Preview Day, to encourage prospective students. Here is an excerpt from one of his recent chapels.
Someday you’re going to be someone’s hero. I know that’s not a thought you spend much time on, nor should you. Eventually, others will admire your servant-hearted leadership and it will draw them to that same goal.
Your determination to stand in a stormy situation will be observed and later emulated by an individual who watched you endure. Your commitment to character and integrity of life will hold someone pure when they would otherwise yield and fall. Your model will strengthen them and you will be what today’s world calls a hero.
Getting from here to there isn’t the sort of thing we manipulate. It’s something God, by His grace, chooses to do as we’re busy about the work of leaving a legacy. Most of you are so young that the thought of a legacy sounds like something that attaches itself to an obituary or to age—not so.
In his penetrating book Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community, Max De Pree has a chapter that never fails to grip me. The chapter is entitled, “Elements of a Legacy.” Listen to De Pree’s words:
In searching for our potential, we certainly need to distinguish between strategic planning and leaving a legacy. A strategic plan is a long term commitment to something we intend to do. A legacy results from the facts of our behavior that remain in the mind of others, the cumulative informal record of how close we came to the person we intended to be. For me, what you plan to do differs enormously from what you leave behind.
Most of you are in training for ministry at DTS and some of you are thinking about coming to this place for training. I want to give you a whole other direction. Think of DTS as the place where you begin your legacy, and not a place where you come simply to observe and learn—though you will do that. Think of it as a place where you come to establish some of the marks of your legacy.
You will see many of those things lived out in the lives of those who teach you and those who will surround you among your classes. But you—uniquely and specifically gifted by God—have your own touch and spiritual DNA, if you will.
In the book, De Pree gives us some of the elements of legacy. One of them is establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. Another is developing a direction in your life—having a vision and then pursuing it. The third is fending for truth, and the fourth is choosing to be personally accountable.
The value of living an accountable life—remaining with a small group of people who love you deeply and also care about your legacy—is the reason I’ve been able to stay on my feet. I have friends and mentors who have helped me sustain a sense of balance as a man, husband, daddy, granddad, and minister of the gospel.
I have never seen myself as an island unto myself, and I don’t want you to see yourself like that. I know the blessings of God have been upon me long before I was interested in Him. However, once I began to pursue ministry, I caught the idea of the value of living horizontally—in relationship with a few people who would help watch out for my good and my spiritual health, and a dozen other things.