Passing it Along
Do you remember a few years back when you might find certain groups of young people wearing colorful plastic bracelets with the letters WWJD stamped on them? The letters stood for “What Would Jesus Do?” and they became popular with some people for a short time because they were a prompt to behave in every circumstance like Jesus would behave.
I never wore one. Most people I know never wore one. And yet most people I know ask a question like that many times a day—maybe not about Jesus, but of their own belief system—“What would God wish me to do in this situation?” Take away the slightly childish suggestion that a plastic bracelet is the best way to remember to ask that question, and it is actually not a bad idea. What does your moral system of belief and behavior ask of you? What should you do?
I got some insights into how many of us answer that question from some of the responses that came in about my Father’s Day column, in which I spoke of the trip my family took with my father to Norway several years ago to reconnect with our roots. Several people wrote to me and shared similar photos and stories about the importance of family—and especially the importance of how their fathers had helped guide them in life.
As I was reading through the affectionate and loving accounts about fathers who had been truly impactful in their children’s lives, a pattern began to emerge. The common thread was that the most effective guide into adulthood and life is not just a person who talks the talk but a person who walks the walk. People are most blessed by role models who actually live out their values and act on their principles—and who call on those they are guiding into maturity to act on them, too.
It turns out that if we are going to wear a band with initials on our wrist, it should probably say WWMMTRMD for What Would My Most Trusted Role Model Do? For followers of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Most Trusted Role Model is Jesus—but practically speaking, we also find godly behavior in many other people and in many different ways. And I thank God for those people who are such great examples of the values and beliefs that I’d like to see enlivened in my own life—such as parents and mentors and exemplary individuals whose lives inspire and guide us.
In Psalm 26:3 it says, “For your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.” Better than a plastic bracelet, those who have loved us and shown us how to navigate through challenging circumstances are sources of assurance and direction. Even when they are no longer with us in life, the memories of them, the values we received from them, and the meaning we are able to discern from how they lived their lives and challenged us to live ours are “love ever before us.”
As it turns out, not only do we receive guidance from those who love us, we are also able to provide the love that becomes guiding truths to others (like our own children)—to those we love with honesty and faithfulness.
It’s a simple and almost childish image—but it is as if we are all plastic bracelets who are linked together by the love we have received and the love we pass along. And in the end passing it along is what our lives are all about.