If I asked you to name some of your favorite places to go, I doubt that a cemetery would be high on your list. Our choices would not normally include graveyards. But burial grounds hold some valuable lessons for us.
First of all the obvious: an honor and fondness for the family member or friend buried there. A cemetery brings us face to face with a real person represented by a headstone. Someone who lived, breathed, and walked this same earth in their day just like we do today.
But graveyards strike us with another pertinent reality: the brevity and conclusion of human life. Not only does every tombstone there represent someone once alive on this same earth, but it also tells us of this person who once died, no longer a part of vibrant life on this planet.
I recently heard a message by Karen Wheaton where she talked about our lives being the “dash.” Whatever did she mean? And what do I mean by “living in the dash?”
A person came into being on a specific day and died on a specific date. Nestled in between those two dates, one tiny dash symbolizes the whole of their life.
Think about it. A person’s entire life – everything they did, everyone they touched, everywhere they went – all wrapped up into one short character: a dash.
The Scriptures alert us to life’s swift passing. Moses prays in Psalm 90 that we would gain a heart of wisdom by numbering our days. Also, Ethan writes in Psalm 89 of the shortness of our time on earth before we see the grave.
Friend, we have to realize that our lives are a “vapor.” James 4:14 says, “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” That “vapor” is the “dash” on a headstone.
Realizing that we have limited time on the earth should motivate us to make the most of our “dash.” That dash may translate into 80 years, 50 years, 20 years, 35 years, or 100 years. Only God knows the length of our days. James goes on to say that we should declare, “If the Lord wills,” we will do such and such.
Yesterday is past. Tomorrow is not promised. So, we only have today. How many “todays” are unknown to us – but their sum will make a short “dash” on a headstone one day.
Seeing our lives in this light stimulates us to make each new day count for our King. What if we woke up each morning ready to make an impact in the lives of people in eternal ways? What if we rose every day asking God, “What’s on your agenda for me today?” What if we searched today for some way to declare God’s goodness to someone we meet along the way? What if each day, we were on a mission – to make an eternal impact in the lives of those we encounter?
Perhaps we need to paste a dash symbol (—) somewhere. Some place easily visible to us all through the day to remind us of life’s brevity – and of our need to be wise in how we live this day, “redeeming the time,” as Paul says in Ephesians 5:16.
The next time you see a headstone, remember what the dash represents. And realize that your whole life will one day boil down to a simple dash on a slab.
While we are living in the dash, let’s make ours count, shall we?