I have a very large painting of a few Seagulls hanging prominently in my living room. My wife thinks it is rather ugly, frankly I’m not too excited by the composition myself – Seagulls are rats with wings. However, since our living room has a Palm-Tree border, this painting works with the decor of our home. But that is not the reason it is given a place of honor.
Next year it will be 25 years since a friend of mine gave it to me as a gift. He found it by some trashcans in an alley behind a doctor’s office and asked if I’d like it. I thought that the frame might be reusable so I accepted.
I’ve had the painting from 1985 – 2009 so far. It some ways it seems like a long time, but that dash between the years is just a blip in the grand scheme of things.
Which brings me to the idea of the dash.
I found an interesting dictionary definition of dash. It is, “a dash is used to note an abrupt break or pause in a sentence or hesitation in an utterance”.
The reason this painting has meaning for me is due to another dash. It is 1972 – 1986.
My friend, Cecil Todd Wilson, gave me this painting when he was 13 years old.
Just a few short months later, Todd (he hated to be called Cecil) was riding his bike home from school in the rain when he accidentally turned his bike in front of a car. He died instantly from the impact.
The dash of his life was not even a full 14 years long. His time was up. The dash notes an abrupt break, and a pause.
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment – Hebrews 9:27
Had Todd lived he would have been 37 this year. As I was reading in the book of Job I was reminded of how brief life really is.
Please remember that you made me out of clay and that you will return me to the dust again. – Job 10:9
Why did you take me out of the womb? I wish I had breathed my last breath before anyone had laid eyes on me.Then it would be as if I had never existed, as if I had been carried from the womb to the tomb. Isn’t my life short enough? – Job 10:18-20a
From the womb to the tomb is just a dash. The question is, what do we make of that dash? Will anyone remember that we were even here? Will your life have mattered? Nearly everyone is forgotten after the third generation. Don’t believe me? What are your great-great-grandparent’s names? Where did they live? What did they do? Very rare is the person that is remembered longer.
But thankfully, if we know Christ as our Lord, and more importantly if he knows us, then the dash becomes irrelevant. And a number at the end of the dash is not the end. Christ will never forget us. Everything about us is indelibly written in his books.
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
Some day the painting my come down; it may be damaged, it may lose meaning to those that come after me, it may no longer match the decor. But Todd will never be forgotten.
If you look closely at Todd’s grave maker you’ll see that it has a rather different dash. It says “Asleep in Jesus”, because he knew, and is known of the the Lord. He is not forgotten, no matter how many generations may pass until Jesus’ return. The dash is just a pause in the relationship, I will see him again.
Father, thank you for the dash of my life thus far. Please give me the wisdom and ability to make the most of it. Help me to fulfill your great commission. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Womb – Tomb – Infinity. Jan