Often when discussing life and death with people you hear the comment that the thing that really matters is not the date you were born or the date that you die but the dash in-between. In other words, what you did between your birth and your death. What did you accomplish in life – not in the sense of what you did but looking at your legacy… what you are leaving behind. Did you just consume and take from the world or did you contribute to life and thus the planet and the human race is better off because of your life.
I am not thinking of dying soon but recently I had the opportunity to walk through three different graveyards … two Muslim and one Christian. It was a semi-day off in Kazakhstan and I walked down a dirt road that I am familiar with just to get some exercise and get away from the demands of a ministry trip. I had visited two of these graveyards before on past walks. This time I was struck by the shortness of life and the length of “forever.” The ‘dash’ or the life lived between the two dates is really not all that significant. There were some gravestones that showed the person had lived a lengthly life; some lived just a few years and died relatively young. Of course, there is no indication on a gravestone as to the quality of a life or what they contributed. There is no explanation of what occurred during the ‘dash’ whether long or short.
As I looked at and read many of the grave markers I thought about my own gravestone which one day may mark where my physical body is disposed of. I was thinking not about the ‘dash.’ I was thinking that it should read “Ralph Howe 1947 – Eternity” because although my body may have died on a certain date in a particular year – I didn’t die. I will be alive forever and forever and forever. And, the most important thing will not be what I accomplished while here on Earth for a short time (the ‘dash’) but who I have become while living temporarily here on planet Earth. Character and maturity is what God is looking for – and most of what happens to us and in us is about developing a Christ-like character and maturing into the likeness of Christ whom we follow. It is that character that goes with me into the longest part of my forever life – Heaven.
Now, just need to think about the slogan I want engraved on the stone below where my date is listed…