Fingerprints & Ripples

Dr. Elizabeth Ríos
5 min readMay 20, 2023

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What Good & Godly People Leave Behind

I just got home from my second anniversary dinner celebrating my 33rd wedding anniversary. We went to an Italian restaurant in Doral. It was lovely. Food was great. But that’s not the reason I am writing.

As I ate dinner with my husband, our topics centered around three things. Three things have been the topics for the last eight months. What were the topics? Death, Hospice, and Legacy.

Eight months ago, we lost our beloved son, Daniel Jeremiah, on his 23rd birthday. You can read more about that in other posts I’ve made here. But today, the trigger was the death of someone none of us knew personally. The death of Tim Keller, pastor, author, church plant network founder, and profound theologian, had me in tears over dinner. We chuckled a little because as we both talked about life, death, legacy, and the role of hospice and as tears streamed down our faces, we were being served our dinner. We thought, “These people must think we are breaking up.” But at our age, and after everything we have been through in our decades of living, we cry anywhere and without shame. But we get a kick out of what others might think we are crying about.

But the chuckles quickly returned to a serious conversation about how the death of this man I never met made me sad. It made me sad because my friend Alan Hirsh, another church-planting hero to me, mentioned how Tim’s death was going to leave a vacuum, and that reality hit me. (Something to discuss in another post!). It made me sad because people often take for granted that the people who have had a profound impact on our lives will always be around.

As I perused numerous social media platforms, it became increasingly evident that Tim Keller’s impact reached far and wide, touching the lives of authors, speakers, rappers, pastors, chefs, and countless others. Some of the most significant voices of our generation expressed their unwavering admiration for Keller, underscoring his significant impact on their lives and work.

I wrote a post on Facebook saying:

“I never met him but his influence on church planting and the evangelical world at large was huge. His book on Forgiveness and many others made me sit hard in my thoughts, and often gave way to the Spirit’s redirection. Didn’t agree with some of his thinking but always deeply respected him and how he lived his life.

Yesterday it was announced he entered hospice. Today he is no longer on this side of heaven. Reminded me of the quickness with which my lil guy also transitioned from hospital, hospice to heaven.

The interweb is abuzz with tributes to this man who touched so many in varied ways. Fingerprints and ripples. That’s what Godly people leave behind. May we all have such a legacy.

It seems that heaven keeps adding from our best.

Well done, sir! Well done. Take your rest with the Father.”

At dinner, I told my husband that could be a book, “Fingerprints and Ripples” but right now I need to write about that! You see, from my perspective, that is what good and/or Godly people leave behind. I say and/or because some people leave their imprint but don’t know God, they were just good darn people. Yet many were good because they were Godly and that was the driver for everything they did in this life.

After losing my child, I kept saying to myself, how can I keep his memory alive. Then I realized what Judy Blume stated: “Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch.” Whether it was my son’s or Tim Keller’s, their lives had a significant impact on the people that knew them, knew their story or in Tim’s case, read his words through his numerous books. Those will never fade and if all the posts I saw everywhere today is any indication, that is most certainly a fact.

My challenge to us all on this side of heaven is:

  1. To do what Albert Tate once said, “live for our eulogy not for our resume” and do it in the most faithful expression of who we believe God wants us to be right now.
  2. Love and honor those who have poured into our lives NOW because tomorrow might be too late.
  3. Redirect our energy to the things that matter for eternity, not the things that will make us celebrities. That was something else Tim Keller modeled for us. If people put us on a pedestal in our presence, we can always remind them, we are just like them.

All of us will leave fingerprints and ripples in this world. Just like our fingerprints are unique to us, our actions and character create a distinct mark on the lives of those we touch. Our kindness, compassion, and selflessness create ripples that extend far beyond our immediate sphere of influence, leaving a lasting impact on the world. By living our lives aligned with goodness and godliness, we can ensure that our actions reflect the love and grace we have received from God. To hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” we are inspired to lead lives of purpose, integrity, and service, leaving behind fingerprints and ripples that witness our commitment to making a positive difference and making God’s name great.

Tim Keller

Tim showed us how to live and how to die. May I have such grace in my last days if given the opportunity. One particular thing he said that has so much more meaning to me due to my son’s passing is, “All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better.” May we not waste the lessons he took the time to teach, especially in these three last years of his life as he battled pancreatic cancer.

All to say, my dear friends, remember, “God gave you a fingerprint that no one else has, so you can leave an imprint that no one else can.” I believe many of us can say, no one will leave behind an imprint quite like Tim Keller’s.*

So that my friends, is what I want to focus the rest of my life on…fingerprints and ripples. What about you?

Love you all.

*I did not agree with some of Keller’s view on women but that doesn’t negate all the good that he did, all the influence he had. His life is still one to honor.

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Dr. Elizabeth Ríos

NY Diasporican thinker/writer, former pastor, church planter educator and Jesus & justice advocate. Wife and Mom to two boys (one in heaven).