The End Credits
It wasn't too long ago that moviegoers would make their escape from a film as soon as the credits started to roll. The score of the film playing out those precious final moments before the screen fades to black, popcorn stuck to shoes, and eyes adjusting to the turning on of the lights.
Take the movie Frozen for example, there is a funny credit listed regarding Kristoff and boogers.
All of these moments seem much farther away in recent years thanks to properties like Marvel and others which leave us with intriguing, and often mysterious post-credit scenes that get us ready for the next film. In doing so, the credits of a movie have gotten far more playback in the last eleven years than any other time in cinema history. As they scroll by, every cast, crew, and technician on the movie gets credited for the work they have done. All of these people have, in turn, given a hand in creating this piece of cinematic art.
I have often thought about my end credits list and the people who have had the most significant influence on my life. Family. Friends. Mentors. People who have given parts of themselves to my growth and development. People to which I am forever indebted.
Years ago, I started to think about life beyond my own. What world would I leave behind? What world would I leave my children and grandchildren? What would I leave behind to those who would come along after me? While the questions seem rite with existentially driven self-worth accusations, I do believe we ponder these moments--every one of us--as we look ahead toward what we have done in this life. For me, it was never enough to survive, but I want to thrive as the Switchfoot song of the same name goes. But to thrive means two things: first, grow or develop well, or vigorously, or the second definition, prosper or flourish.
I love the idea of the word flourish. All of which the definitions point to successfully succeeding under the right circumstances. This word feels written for me. If you know me well, you know I enjoy being at the center of attention. However, in new circumstances, I wait to get a bit more comfortable before I can take my strides. I fall on this line between extrovert and introvert, where I find comfort in both ideals. But in my heart to flourish is a dream. A dream that I continue to walk towards thanks to the men and women who had gone before me and worked with me to see me flourish.
But what does flourishing have to do with the End Credits?
Well, I think of Paul and how he flourished beyond anyone's expectations when he became a Christ follower. Paul's life was changed on the road to Damascus when he encountered Christ. From there, the ministerial work and discipleship that Paul began started to spread as churches took root and people came to Christ.
One of Paul's most significant letters was to the church in Rome. As he writes, Paul knows the commonality they have in Jesus. So while he had not been part of the initial Roman church plant, he had contacts in Rome, knew of the church, and made it his mission to connect with them in some way.
"8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—"
Paul has a longing to connect with his brothers and sisters at this church. Wanting to share his gifts with the church, Paul informs them of how much he wishes he were with them. Paul understands that part of the End Credits comes through the initial investment.
And the cliches cried out, "You reap what you sow."
But the truth is, investing in others is an opportunity for teaching. How many people have we spent time with over our lives, and as we look back, we realize how much we learned from them? To take the time to name all of the ones I have, would necessitate several posts.
I think of my friend Kyle and the years we've known each other. Kyle and I first became friends as he worked at the Christian Youth Center I had been working at over the summers in high school, and eventually through college too. When I went to college, Kyle became my first roommate. We played Euchre, video games, talked about like, and worked through some terribly long nights writing papers. As we've remained friends, the one thing I continue to notice is how much I learn from Kyle just by being around him. Like Paul, the presence of intentional friendship allows for investment and in turn, teaching.
But Paul continues in verse 12.
"12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith."
Investing in others doesn't merely bring you the opportunity to teach someone else, but ultimately, it becomes a mutual experience of edification; this proves to be the process in which discipleship takes place the most naturally. With one offering tools and disciplines to help the disciple become more Christ-like, while the other becomes a recipient of the discipleship, and vice-versa.
What we discover then is a relationship rooted in mentorship--discipleship--that reaps the rewards of symbiotic learning. Very similar to the writer of Proverbs 27:17 when he writes, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
We have the unique privilege of then seeing the rewards flourish as the return on our investment grows. Once again, we look to Paul in Romans 1:13.
"13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles."
Paul writes of the harvest had among the people, that is becoming followers of Christ. This harvest is the reward Paul longs for among those he connects with; that they should know Jesus. While the reward of investment, intentionality, and the legacy left behind by the way we interact and care for others looks different than this, there are many moments where people have given their lives to Christ because of the friendships they have had with believers. It is not always street preaching, outreach, or missional evangelism that sees life change take place, for it is also in the quiet moments of hurting, doubt, and empathy where people find grace in Christ by way of others.
Much like that curious light within the forest of Narnia, the way we live now acts as a lamp post for those lost in the dark; pointing us in the right direction.
And so we invest in others because it offers opportunities to teach.
We invest in others because it will lead to a life of mutual influence.
And in doing so, we see a clearer picture of the End Credits.
I want to leave behind a legacy of intentionality. A legacy that bears witness not to what work I may accomplish, or to how I might flourish, but rather a legacy that reminds people of the way we transformed each other's lives.
And when the End Credits roll on the lives I have been so fortunate to spend time with; my hope is that I would appear on theirs too.