The room was quiet. The speaker for the evening stood and walked up the few stairs onto the platform. He began to address the youth sitting in the front row—our eighth-grade class—while the rest of us listened. I relaxed, as my part of the program was done. The kids had sung and played; now came the commencement address by Pastor Hal Steenson. Another school year was finished; how proud I was of “our kids.”
Suddenly I sat up straighter. This didn’t sound like the usual graduation speech. Pastor Hal was talking about gravestones and the writing etched in those stones. Gravestones? Wasn’t that a bit depressing for these kids on the cusp of adolescence? How did that fit into graduation? What had happened to growing up, living your dreams, reaching for success, serving Jesus—all the normal grad themes?
“What’s in that dash?” Pastor Hal asked, then paused to look over the audience. What did he mean? A dash on a gravestone was simply that: a punctuation mark between someone’s date of birth and date of death. A line etched in stone. How could a line really encompass the living, breathing part of a person? Someone’s whole life with its joys, sorrows, emotions, and accomplishments will all be reduced someday to a single line—simply that, a dash. Was that what he meant? Slowly it dawned on me as he spoke that he was really talking about the graduates’ lives—how were they using their time, spending their lives? What about the rest of us? Would there be anything of significance in our own lives after we were gone? What would our dash reveal?
He continued speaking, but I was stuck back with his question, “What’s in your dash?” I know there’s no ending date marked in mine yet; there’s only a beginning date and part of the dash. Is it a quarter through, halfway, more? Only God knows, but that isn’t really the point. Would my dash speak of selfishness or surrender, fighting or forgiveness, vice or victory? Would it speak of people encouraged, souls won, a heart at peace with God and others? Would it tell the story of a life of service to Jesus?
The service soon ended, but I couldn’t shake Pastor Hal’s words from my mind. What’s in your dash, Jill? I asked myself. What would any of our lives show for that matter? Would our dash show the fruit of the Spirit or the works of the flesh? (See Gal. 5:17-23.) Would we walk in the armor of God, strengthened to withstand the attacks of the enemy, or would we buckle at the first wind of opposition? (See Eph. 6:11-17.) Would we walk with the mind of Christ, esteeming others better than ourselves and focusing on others’ needs instead of our own, or would we let pride creep in and push ourselves to the front? (See Phil. 2:3-5.) And most of all, could we say at the end of our dash that we forgot “those things which are behind, and” that we reached “forth unto those things which are before,” that we pressed “toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13, 14, KJV)? When we get to the end of that race, will we be able to honestly acknowledge that we truly know Him, our God and Savior? (See Phil. 3:10.)
What is your dash looking like so far? I hope and pray mine says, “She lived for Jesus; she loved Jesus; she showed me Jesus.” Now, that’s a dash worth having!
Jill Morikone is a music teacher, a church pianist, and a host on the 3ABN Today cooking segments. This article was published March 10, 2011.