Anxious About the Dash

I squirmed in my seat when a speaker said, “When you walk through any cemetery, you see three things on each tombstone: the birth date, a dash and the date of death. Out of the three, the most meaningful is the dash, for it represents your life.” After a pause, he asked “What are your dashes filled with?”

I gulped at the challenge and asked myself that question. Then the image of a friend splashed through my mind.” Year after year, he’d do “his thing”. Dressed as a leprechaun, he danced with a huge grin on his bony face. His eyes sparkled under a green hat with a feather that stuck up from the side. He sported short pants with suspenders, and a long scraggly beard dyed green hung from his chin. While waving a shamrock in the air, he skipped in the midst of the St. Patrick’s parade. Though he’s long gone, everyone remembers him as the exuberant leprechaun. In his own quirky way, he made his indelible mark on his “dash” of life.

“Hmm,” I thought. “When I’m long gone, what will my “dash” represent and what will I be remembered by?” So, I squared my shoulders with a twinge of pride as the accomplishments that dotted my life flickered through my mind.

But just as quickly, doubt dribbled in. Those achievements were so personal that perhaps no one would notice or care. For example, what difference did it make if I climbed the ladder of success if I didn’t honor God in the process? Or what would it matter if I increased my material riches if I didn’t enrich the life of someone else? Who would care if I wrote books and countless articles if my readers didn’t find inspiration to uplift tough moments? And who’d know if I exercised and swallowed supplements to stay healthy if I didn’t visit a sick friend?

Goodness, how do we find that gem we can leave behind as a “”dash” that shines as a legacy of life lived with gusto and passion? When David cried to God, he might have been searching for the same thing as he focused on his life on earth: “Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:4-5)

But then came Jesus and with his glorious life and resurrection gave the answer: “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)

Everlasting? The life for those who believe in Christ is not a dash, but an endless line of life, eternal and certain. Aren’t you glad? The pressure is off. No need to worry about what to leave behind. Instead, with sweet anticipation, look forward to what lies ahead.

Clothed in hope, accented with that anticipation and reassurance, we live each day with purpose. The task is simple--love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. Having that goal firmly planted, we delete the dash and change it to an open-ended sentence. A sentence of glory that awaits you and me--of peace that never ends, tears that flow no more, pain that has vanished, uncertainty empty of its impact, and death that has no power. That’s how God made the dash endless.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

While the world wrings the hands wondering what to do in the dash of life, knowing it will end, we can breathe relief knowing something else--that we live not for a dash of time, but for an everlasting eternity.

Janet Perez Eckles


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