Linda Ellis’ Unorthodox Dash
It usually starts with soft, somber music.
People enter the room and find their seats. Maybe a few hugs and whispers of, “I am sorry for your loss”.
The pastor stands and welcomes everyone for coming and then he opens with a prayer.
Then the poem.
I have heard the poem countless times and I’ve had the honor to read this poem over a few of those I’ve loved.
The poem is written by Linda Ellis and its title is “The Dash”.
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
That poem sums up so much about life. It shows where so many people invest their lives. They focus on the money, the possessions and the stuff. And they feel like they’ve missed out on life if they don’t have those things. They feel like the stuff is reason they are alive.
The problem is when we live only to pursue stuff then we miss out on life’s real purpose. See I’ve stood at plenty of those funerals and no one has ever stood up and said, “You know what I am going to miss? I am going to miss their cars. I am really going to miss their cash.”When I read this little poem I don’t see this as a sad thing, I see this as a challenge. I see this as the target to pursue. Someday my family will gather and my casket will be surrounded by my kids, my grand kids, my great grand kids, my great-great grand kids. (What can I say? I plan on being around a long, long time). They will gather and they will read this poem over me and then they will push my boat out to sea, then hoot one flaming arrow at my body and my boat will go up in flames as they watch (I’ve always wanted a Viking funeral, I need to out live my wife because she will never go for it.) At the time they lay me to rest I want them to be excited because my dash impacted so many people.
I have one goal in life. At my funeral my goal is to have one person (hopefully more, but one will do) to stand and say, “my life was better because the way Mike loved me and the way Mike lived his faith.” I can’t think of a better goal in life than impacting the world for Christ and impacting someone’s life.
I believe that’s what being a Christian is all about. Once we accept Jesus, once we start to follow, then every moment after that is all about reaching others for Jesus. And if we waste our time chasing wealth, prestige, possessions then we are missing out on our ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is impacting other peoples eternity.
Mark 8:36-38, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
This verse makes me think of two things.
- How much time have I wasted chasing temporary stuff?
- How have I lived my faith in a way that impacts others?
There’s a fun church term “Personal Relationship with Jesus” which I agree with but not 100%. See I believe I need to know Jesus personally, but I also believe that my relationship with others should impact everyone. As soon as it’s personal for us then it’s global for everyone else.
So how will your dash impact others dash?