I was having one of those nights where I could not sleep because I had so many thoughts going through my head. Read for a little bit but that didn’t help so I got up and turned the television on and there was a movie I had never seen, “The Accountant.” It had already started but I watched it and it was an intriguing plot which I will not share because I do not want to spoil it if you have not seen the movie. Anyway, at the end of the movie was a song that I had never heard, but after hearing it I could not get the lyrics out of my head. The song was called “To Leave Something Behind” sung by Sean Rowe. I googled it and found the lyrics and also stumbled across this meditation by Jake Owensby, a Louisiana Bishop in the Episcopal Church:
Oh wisdom is lost in the trees somewhere
You’re not going to find it in some mental gray hair
It’s locked up from those who hurry ahead
And it’s time to leave something behind
I was just trying to leave something behind
“This hook from Sean Rowe’s song “To Leave Something Behind” has lodged itself in my heart and in my theological imagination. These words crystallize a yearning that shapes my life, at least on my best days. Wanting to leave something behind contrasts sharply with wanting to make a name for myself. I’m not interested in slapping my name on buildings or hats or t-shirts. Creating a stir with my tweets and making headlines do not inspire me. Leaving something behind isn’t about me. On the contrary, it’s about devoting myself to something larger than myself. A common good. A world that will nurture and sustain others, including and especially those who come after me.
Leaving something behind doesn’t mean making a better place for myself in the world. It means making the world a better place for everybody. Jesus says that the Kingdom is like a mustard seed or like yeast. A tiny mustard seed can yield a tree. A pinch of yeast can turn a heap of flour into a loaf. To wind up with a tree somebody has to plant the seed. There won’t be a loaf if someone doesn’t prepare the dough. Somebody has not only to dream about what might be but must also commit themselves to it.
The Kingdom, in other words, is like a pearl of great price. Someone found it in a field and sold everything to buy that field. That person was all in. Utterly committed. Now here’s the thing about the value of a pearl. There is no guarantee that others will value it as much as you do. Like any investment, it’s a risk.
The seed, the yeast, and the pearl teach us a lesson about possibilities. Not inevitabilities. Things may not turn out the way we want. But Jesus tells us to plant. To knead. To invest. Devoting ourselves to the Kingdom—trying to leave something behind—isn’t the same thing as betting on a sure thing. It’s an act of trust. Trying to leave something behind is also an exercise in letting go of control. I’m not a bread baker. But I do know this much: at a certain point you have to leave the dough alone. If you mess with it, you’ll ruin it. Devoting ourselves to the Kingdom has nothing to do with sitting on our hands and waiting for God to do all the work.
Jesus teaches us to do the good that we can do and to trust that God is working through other vessels in ways that we probably will not perceive. I dream that people will inhabit a world where every person’s work provides a life filled with dignity. I dream that the elderly and the handicapped will have the support and care that every human being richly deserves. I dream of a world where quality healthcare is available to everyone. I dream of a world where we value people more than profits and social rank and possessions. We don’t live in that world right now. But it’s the world I want to leave behind.”