Are you leaving a legacy?

In honor of Dr. Kurien (Vallichayan) Kaniamparampil

When I was a kid, my goal…my dream…was to be an astronaut.

I had a passion for science when I was young. I watched with awe the 1981 launch of the space shuttle Columbia, wondering what amazing technology we would have in the future. I remember going to the Alabama Space and Rocket Center, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I bought a patch commemorating the ’81 shuttle mission and dreamed of someday flying the space shuttle.

When I was fourteen, I had an appointment with my guidance counselor to start talking about career choices. I had researched and mapped out my plan. I was going to be an astronaut. (According to the movie, the Right Stuff) most astronauts were recruited from the ranks of military test pilots. Of course, to be a test pilot, you had to be an officer. And the best pilots went to the service academies. So I had decided, at fourteen years old, I was going to go to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. I informed the guidance counselor of my plans. She seemed impressed I had worked all this out.   She gave me some advice about taking math classes and said the industrial arts (aka: woodshop) class I had taken probably wasn’t going to help much. I left her office excited with an official college catalog from the Air Force Academy in hand.

Later that afternoon when I got home, I eagerly poured over the catalog. The glossy photos of the book showed Air Force Academy cadets doing all manner of activities. The flight school portion was thrilling. I had visions of screaming through the stratosphere in the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet. Then I got to the physical requirements.

Male candidates must be able to do 35 pushups in 2 minutes.”

I quickly got on the floor and knocked out 35 pushups. Whew….it was tough, but I did it.

Male candidates must be able to do 48 sit-ups in 2 minutes.”

I got back down on the floor and struggled to do 30 sit-ups. “Well, I’ve got plenty of time to get in shape,” I thought.

Then I saw it. As I stared at the words on the page through my coke bottle thick glasses, the following statement utterly crushed my dream and destroyed all my hopes of ever becoming an astronaut.

Candidates for the Air Force Academy’s pilot training program must have 20/20 uncorrected vision.”

Shocked. Crushed. Hopeless. A flood of emotions filled my poor little 14-year-old heart. I realized I would never be an astronaut.

Well, suffice to say, I eventually got over it. And, as I look back on my life, I can say with certainty that God had other plans for me. I occasionally think how different my life would be had any one of hundreds of decisions gone another way. I stand amazed at how the Lord has worked things out, despite my best efforts to completely screw things up over the years!

We all want to leave our mark on the world. When we were younger, many of us wanted to be a doctor, a teacher, a firefighter, a police officer, or an astronaut. I think in many respects, we viewed our future career options and more than just a way to make a living, but we viewed them as a way to leave a legacy.

In the Gospel of Mark, we read a passage where Jesus provides some insight into an important aspect of leaving a legacy.

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31, ESV).

This is a profound passage, and one that is both encouraging and a challenging. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is certainly a daunting task. What I find reassuring is that we can find examples of other Christians who have excelled at this. A excellent example of this is Dr. Kurien (Vallichayan) Kaniamparampil.  He was the great-uncle of a good friend of my wife and I, Tia Tharp.  Tia and her husband, Devon, run Bright Side Youth Ranch outside Charlotte, NC.  We visited them in early October, and I got to hear some fascinating stories about Tia's great-uncle.  Tia wrote a fascinating blog post about her great-uncle who recently passed away.  Her story is inspiring and heartwarming and a great read!  This great man of faith left a huge impact on the world for the cause of Christ. His legacy is one to be admired and will certainly an impact for scores of generations to come.