"I'm tired of people blaming [his father] for what he did to [him], it's what he did FOR [him] that made him what he was in the world..."
"[He} was no saint or no sinner, like people keep saying. He was just a man, a man with God-given...genius."
"I cried for the lost child in him and the stress it placed on this wonderful person."
"Let us not confuse talent with sainthood. Have we forgotten the other side of his notoriety?"
"[he] was...a confused adult who couldn't look at himself in the mirror and did his best to change what looked back."
A lot has happened in the past several weeks that has caused me to reflect on my past...and my future. A number of very famous, or perhaps infamous, people have passed away and the media has been quick to review their lives for all of us to see. One of those was Michael Jackson...the "king of pop".
Growing into adulthood during the 1970's and 80's, Michael Jackson was a constant fixture in pop music...and like many, I liked his music and appreciated his talent. I remembered him from his early years as a member of the Jackson 5 and was, at times, amazed at the gifts of this little boy...and later, this young man. His musical genius was apparent to all of us. And on the outside, he appeared to have it all...money, fame, acclaim, talent. But as we all learned over the next 30 years, on the inside was a severely wounded man.
A week ago, every major television station in this country broadcast the funeral of this man live around the world. I even found myself scanning it occasionally from my computer at work as it was streamed across the Internet on countless websites. As I watched the memorial service and listened to the speakers, I was struck by the way that this man was remembered. And as I read the accounts in the print media, the same thoughts occurred to me. And then, I started to reflect on my own life.
Six years ago as I was starting into a new job, I never could have imagined anything but positive acclaim at the life I have lived. I was a highly visible, highly respected member of a profession and community. I was a beloved husband, father and grandfather. And if I had died at any time prior to February 23, 2004, the things said at my memorial service would have mostly likely been full of the remembrance of my professional accomplishments and cute stories about my role as a father and grandpa.
But all that changed when the FBI walked into my office. The article in the newspapers now painted a different picture who I was...and they were not pretty. When people talked of me over the next several months, there was not only confusion about what I had done, but also a sense of loss...that the person that they thought they knew no longer existed.
One thing that I know about all people...we each leave some type of a legacy. What that legacy says about us can change in a twinkling of an eye, but nonetheless, it's what we will be remembered by. I've come to understand that I could choose to let my legacy be those words that were recorded in the countless media in the days and weeks that followed February, 2004.
But I believe that God has a different legacy in store for me...a story that He wrote for me before time even existed. Some of my life experiences were not good...and should not have been experienced by anyone. And certainly, some of my choices were worse than bad...and should never have been made. But life cannot be undone. I am called to use those experiences and how they shaped me...and God's work in my life to help other people. To share a hope for those who find themselves in a similar closet of darkness that my own life had become.
I found a final comment in the media that spoke of the legacy of Michael Jackson that I hope will never be written of me...
"I wish [he] could have met the real Jesus, not the rule mongering, anti-holiday, party pooper Jesus of The Watchtower. I'm talking about the Jesus of the New Testament...Jesus would have quenched his thirst, healed his hurts and changed the color of his soul, not his skin. ...happiness cannot be bought, it can only be received from the hands of our Creator, our Savior, our friend, Jesus Christ."
Instead, if I were to write my own legacy, it would be this -
Mark was a tortured man for much of his life. He bore scars that were buried beneath the surface that no one else ever saw. And for many years, he refused to treat the wound, choosing instead to keep it covered (even from himself). But then he met the Great Healer at a time in his life when everything seemed to be lost...out of control...and life didn't seem worth living any more. Through the grace of God, Mark received the gift of salvation and restoration. And then, he freely shared that gift with anyone who would receive it, much the same way that Jesus offers that gift to everyone today.
Mark was not a perfect man...far from it, and he would be the first one to admit that. And he finally recognized that he was not alone in the struggles that he faced and that he could not win the battle on his own. After his fall from grace (in society's eyes at least), he spent the rest of his life working to help others win the their battles with the help of God, a warrior who will stand beside you and go before you in the battles of this life. He would not want to be remembered as a hero or a saint. Instead, he would want his legacy to simply be that he was a man who was willing to be used of God...and he was.