Etched on a Boot Hill grave marker in Tombstone, Arizona:“In memory of Frank Bowles Born August 5, 1828-Died August 26, 1880. As you pass by, remember that as you are, so once was I, and as I am, you soon will be. Remember me.”
Some things never change. The epitaph on the grave of Frank Bowles blatantly reminds us of the brevity of life as we know it. We tend to celebrate birth dates with relish but dread the thought of dying. We mostly ignore what is to come by filling our lives with busyness and an occasional tick on our “bucket lists.” Looking at the marker, Frank’s lifetime of fifty-two years and twenty-one days is represented by a mere dash between his birth and death dates. In the end, is that all a lifetime amounts to . . . one singular dash?
If we only look at life as a superficial existence to be filled by our busyness of going and doing, then perhaps a singular dash is a fair representation. But a life lived in wisdom and faith in relationship with a loving Creator has the potential of adding up to so much more! How so? Because of the price God paid for our redemption:
“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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16,17
Think about the value of gold. There are many positive attributes we can ascribe to gold, but its value is only established by how much someone is willing to pay for it. The same can be said of your life and mine. We may be gifted with certain attributes and even accomplish great deeds. On the flip side, we may live with a litany of regrets about choices we have made that we would give anything to undo. In either case, such things do not give us value. Our value was very publicly established through the bloody and torturous sacrifice of God’s Son. The basis of that sacrifice? “For God so loved the world . . . .”
It is the outpouring of God’s love that sets in place an opportunity of cosmic proportions. The question is . . . what is our response?
“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13)
We do not know anything about Frank Bowles response to God’s offer– yay or nay. What we do know is that whatever choice he made would have absolutely effected his dash.
The Bible speaks about the transformation that takes place in every mind and heart of those who accept God’s valuable offer:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
The transformation that takes place in the mind and heart is the result of a change of focus. I believe that as we are no longer consumed by a penchant to please ourselves or others, we are then freed to live for, love and serve God because of the value He has given us. As this occurs, our dash takes on an out-of-this-world beauty as it is lived out to honor and glorify our Creator.
Rather than live in fear or dread, Hebrews 12 offers a powerful perspective as it speaks to how we can make the most of our dash:
” . . . since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Verses 1,2)
It is an amazing picture that comes to mind as we think about being cheered on by those who have dashed before us. But it doesn’t stop there! What we have been referring to as a dash is transformed into a life of value and meaning as we press to honor the example and attitude of Jesus. From the stands the author of Hebrews cheers us on in verse 3:
“Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
A phrase that I often use in the Counseling Room is, “Life is hard but God is good.” It is His goodness that places unfathomable value on you and me. The question is, will you (will I) honor such an amazing Giver by trusting Him to make our lives into so much more than a dash?
All to His Glory!