The little line between the point of your birth and the day you finish and go Home to the Lord, that is your dash. Are you making it great?
When I first became a believer it was at a youth camp. I wasn't a camper, I was a counselor. I did not truly know the Lord, but rather I was a Cino (pronounced chino), a Christian in name only. No fruit, zero lifestyle change and really to look at me no one would have thought I believed in God. My friend needed a warm body and having nothing else to do that Summer so I said "sure thing!". A free trip to the mountains in So Cal, um, yes please! Truly God had different plans for me.
At that camp a man named Rick Countryman spoke arguably one of the most memorable sermons I have yet to hear. The Lord has used sermons and preacher's TedTalks to impact me, but none to the degree this guy's did. It was titled 'How to create a great dash'. The dash being that little space between when you're born and when you step over into heaven for eternity. For the last twenty six years that title has rolled in my mind over and over. I often ask myself, "how's the dash looking?" and with the death of my husband last Summer, the idea of what will my earthly life look like once it's finished has hurdled to the forefront of my mind.
There was a time in my life I thought leaving an impact on the world was of utmost importance. You know how the world says to leave a legacy now. Make a mark, leave the world better, etc. I now would argue against that. Leaving an impact can veer treacherously off to the self serving side of the road. Having fallen a number of times into a pride, arrogance and yes, self centered ditch far too many times, I do my level best to steer clear of that one, thank you very much. Leaving a legacy is less about those around you and more about yourself. Otherwise you'd be helping others around you create and impact. There's a massive difference though few can see it.
I recently celebrated my 49th birthday and the idea of my dash came screeching to the front of my mind yet again. My "new year" begins the day of my birth every year. For most of the world their "New Year" begins on January 1, but for me, I have often considered my birthday to be my fresh start of sorts, should I need one. At minimum I prayerfully consider the path I'm on, goals, whether physical, emotion or spiritual and how I might need to course correct for the next 365 days. This year was a little different than the past 22 birthdays because this was my first as a widow. That whole thing is still relatively new and I am still figuring out how to maneuver through it all, but this birthday was a splendid opportunity to lay down some goals, vision cast with the Lord and ask Him to once again course correct my life.
As an aside, this is also the time I do a major soul check in. On the Hebrew calendar my birthday falls during the month of Iyar, which is a time of the year the Lord reveals, deals and heals the emotion body- I am always happy to step into His perfect timing and ways. This birthday I was more than happy to give Him the space to swoop in with some Holy Spirit refreshing and restoring of my broken emotions. Needless to say by the end of the month I smelled like a stunning apothecary of emotional wellness having used an insane amount of essential oils to assist the more stubborn negative emotions.
Making a great dash is rarely about leaving a legacy and more about doing the work God prepared in advance for you to do. Though the legacy part can and many times after does accompany a great dash, if that is the focus, we can go wildly off course. Psalm 139 says each of us have a book written about us, and Galatians says there are works prepared in advance for us to do. Yet so many of us are like hamsters on a stupid wheel doing someone else' work and someone else's book. Few know their calling and fewer still know how they are divinely wired in order to accomplish the purposes in their lives God means for them. The world is more than happy to offer ridiculous personality tests to guide you in the way they feel is best. You can find out anything about yourself from what number you are (really, we are reducing ourselves to a number?), to what color we are, and even what kind of cheese we might be. (thank you Facebook) I am mozzarella in case you're wondering...
The Church at large has done an incredibly poor job of equipping saints in their gifts and callings, but rather they are more than happy to post announcements about helping in childcare because after all, that's the greatest need.
Be that as it may, if you are not divinely designed to help and lead children, you have zero business helping in a kids' ministry. No matter how great the need. Yet if you are gifted and called to writing, speaking or scrubbing floors, unless there is a job in any of those, you have no business doing anything else.
Why then do we assume we must step up and fill in for a perceived need in a church or even work setting? If you are not a cook, don't go to the kitchen and start cooking. That's a dumb idea. If you are not a server, do not start attempting to take orders for customers. Also, a dumb idea. Likewise, if you are not designed to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant or teacher, do not go to school to become one only because momma, daddy, grandma, grandpa or uncle Freddy want you to. If you are not equipped and made to do that, you are doing someone else's job. And, you're making a horrible likely fruitless dash. Do what you are divinely designed to do. Always and only.
Your dash, my dash, they are all incredibly different. And no one can tell you what yours is except God Himself, because He is the One who created it for you. This is a hard one for me because I have this gift of seeing people's callings in like 5 minutes of meeting them and about 80% of people I know are not in fact, doing the thing they are meant for. Worse yet, the kids I know, about the same amount are headed to college, are in college or doing a job solely based on the level of income it will produce. I weep thinking of songs never sung, books never written, paintings never seen or inventions never realized all because we never knew what we were created to do. Sadly many folks never step into their calling because of wounds from childhood and false beliefs. Gee, it's no wonder kids today don't even identify as who they were born as.
Dashes are powerful when you think of it. Leaving a legacy, while seemingly noble, can dissolve into utter rubbish when broken down. If one is only thinking of leaving a mark, that leaves out quite a lot of opportunities because who says something is a legacy? No one who left a great legacy set out to leave a legacy, you know? Pretty sure Harriet Tubman never said, I'm going to be one of the greatest people ever known and leave a great legacy of freedom fighters. What she did do what rescue slaves and shuttle them to safety. She saw something worth fighting for, she did what she was born to do. Conversely, there are dozens and dozens of people who made her job possible. Only through their efforts was Ms. Tubman successful. Did they leave a legacy? Not a bit, because you and I do not even know their names. But did they fulfill at least a portion of their purpose, you can bet on that. Anne Frank. As a thirteen year old Jew, she likely wasn't thinking about leaving a legacy or time capsule for future generations. Quite the opposite if you'd read her diary. She was a typically teenager- self focused, self serving and frankly, quite a whiner. But her unintentional book has stunned million and impacted an untold number of people. That is a great dash. And, that is a legacy left unintentionally.
When my husband died it was tricky to see my purpose anymore. Not because he was my whole life, far from it. In fact, that was a sticking point in our marriage. I had heard Rick Countryman's talk, my husband had not. My husband was rarely moved to do the thing God called him to. He was an incredible artist, powerfully so and did little with it because he was told as a young man "there's no money in art. That's not really a career choice." Parents often do a lot of damage to their kids without knowing, all because they think in terms of "good living". For me, making sure everyday was on point with my purpose was critical, that is hard in a marriage when only one thinks that way. I was raised with a grandpa that said "it doesn't matter if you're picking fly poop out of pepper, as long as you're happy doing it, go for it." An he meant it. And my mom thought the same. Not really encouraging me to do my dash great, but it didn't stick in the hamster cage either.
Seeing my purpose was tricky because of tremendous grief and belief problems I wrestled with after losing my husband. Watching my kids grieve their dad is unbearable at times. When you become a widow at an early age all of a sudden everything you believed gets question by your own mind and consequently for me, so did my calling.
My new year/birthday helped right that.
When you think about your dash, what comes to mind? Is it great? Are you doing what you were designed to do? Do you even know what you were designed for? I'll give you a hint, it rarely has to do with how you make an income. I love when people ask what I do. I now respond with, "are you asking how I make money? Because what I do and how I make money are vastly different". It tickles me to see the look on their faces as it does either two things- ones, gives them the hint that asking me how I earn a living is grossly inappropriate and none of their business, so they shut it. Or two, ask me for further info on what I really do, which opens a whole world of healing for them personally- since that, is in fact one of my purposes in my life. Seeing people set free and healed emotionally is a stunning part of my dash. There are many more aspects to it, but that is one of my favorites.
Friend, don't go another day without evaluating your dash, you don't know how long it it. My husband's was only 55 years. Oh and, it's never too late to begin making it a great dash.
Oh and if you want to utilize my gift of seeing what your designed to do, you know where to find me.