Have you ever noticed something common on every headstone? I don’t mean the names. I’m talking about what’s between the dates of birth and death.
It’s the dash. Have you ever stopped to think about that prominent mark?
Beyond the Numbers
I recently read a poem by Jon M. Nelson called The Dash, which speaks to that marking, and what it represents. It got me thinking. What will that dash represent for me when my time comes?
For many, the dash on the stone represents all that particular person has accomplished in their lifetime. But should the dash represent more than this? Should it not embrace all the qualities of the person’s personality, how that individual has impacted the lives of others—even if only a life in existence for a few days or merely hours?
When people see the dash on our gravestone one day, what will it say about us? How can we live out our dash?
Three things are needed:
• Make a Difference
The first is to strive to make a positive difference in the world. Simply being real, being authentic, is an extraordinary quality. Having a good work ethic is also vital—whether at work or at home. We also need to be honest and trustworthy, transparent and open. Intentionally desiring to make a positive difference has a meaningful and lasting impact on others—making the world a better place in which to live.
• Care for Others
Secondly, we need to develop a deep desire to care for others, to be compassionate and empathetic. We need to care for everyone, not just family and friends, for each person is God’s child. If we want our lives to count for something, to have meaning and purpose and value, we must always be thinking of those around us, how our actions—or lack of action—will impact others.
• Think Ahead
Finally, we must always be looking onward and upward. No matterour age, we need to always think about what we can do for the greater good. God wants us to use our gifts and talents to benefit His Kingdom in any way possible. To move onward, as we embrace new ideas for the betterment of humankind, and to look upward, as we daily seek God’s guidance and wisdom for what He desires for our lives.
Living the dash is both exciting and exhilarating! That’s not saying troubles and heartaches won’t come. They will. But it’s how we cope and embrace life’s challenges that really matters.
When our time on earth has come to an end, hopefully the dash on that stone—separating the dates of our birth and death—will represent a life that has been lived to the full, accomplished through God’s amazing grace and love.
Major Beverly Ivany is a retired Salvation Army pastor and the former writer of Words of Life, a daily Bible reading devotional series published by The Salvation Army.
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