I go to cemeteries…a lot. Quite more than I’d like. I don’t go there for fun, trust me. I go there to help loved ones find comfort as we bury someone who has passed away. Most times I ride in the hearse (creepy, right?) and I kind of have to hang out there while the funeral director makes sure everything is carried out to the family’s wishes and the burial is completed. Naturally, I find ways to occupy my time after the family has left. One of those ways has been looking at tombstones and seeing the multitude of dates. I wonder what the person was like, what their life was like, how they lived, etc.
The other day, as I had finished a particularly difficult funeral i noticed something that I hadn’t really paid much attention to. On every grave marker there is a birth year and a death year, but in between the dates is a dash. I know, its obvious, right, but don’t miss the dash. The dash in between birth and death is where life happened. In the dash is everything we as human beings will ever experience on this earth. In the dash is where everything good, bad, or mundane goes down. The dash is worth all the marbles. So here’s 7 ways to truly live in the dash:
1) Don’t Waste Time on “Stuff”
Life is way too short to be consumed by your ego, your stuff, or your status. Here’s the thing – death is the great equalizer…it levels the playing field. Last time I checked the mortality rate of human beings was still at 100%. Solomon writes by the Holy Spirit:
“This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.” ( Ecc. 9:3, NIV)
Why sit waste this amazing moment you have on yourself. At the end of it all it won’t matter how many times you were published, what letters come behind your name, how much bling you had, or how stacked your portfolio was. At the end of the day, without purpose, it’s all meaningless. At the end of it all, a life lived apart from God is meaningless. So don’t waste time on stuff.
2) Learn to Accept Criticism
This one is hard. No on likes to be told their wrong. However, criticism, when constructive, can literally change your life. Proverbs 27:6 says,
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…”
Ask three questions when you feel you’re being criticized, “Where is the truth in this? Is there any truth in this? How can I adjust my life for the better as a result of this?
Remember, not everyone is out to get you. Sometimes, believe it or not, people are actually trying to help you avoid mistakes they’ve made and traps they might have fallen into. Always be ready to grow through constructive criticism.
3) Love Unconditionally
OK, we all like to say we love everybody but here’s the kicker – we usually love people who love us first or in return. True love is a verb, not a noun. It’s action oriented. It refuses to sit on the sidelines and watch. It’s active, it’s real, it’s present, and it shows up. Want a challenge in love? Try what Jesus said:
“27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36, NIV)
That’s love. It’s not some hippy, mushy, Nicolas Sparks garbage. Love shows up even when you don’t feel like it. Love is given to those who don’t deserve it. Love is bestowed upon the haters. Love your enemies. No qualifiers. No strings attached. Just love.
4) Get Rid of the Ego
Like I said above, at the end of it all, you’re not going to care what you had, what you accumulated, how many times you had sex, or that you can memorize “Pi.” Life is too short to waste it on yourself. Confidence is fine, but remember, pride and arrogance is obnoxious and nobody likes a narcissist. Whatever you do, check your ego at the door and realize that life is bigger than you’ll ever be. If you waste it on yourself, then you’ve already received your reward. The world will continue to spin after you die. It’s not about you.
5) Pass the Torch
Each one of us accumulated a certain amount of knowledge through experiences, hurts, and triumphs. That’s all well and good, but if you don’t pass it on to the next generation, it didn’t really do a lot of good, did it? Find someone to invest yourself in. Mentor them. Share your experiences. Help them create new ones minus your mistakes! What an incredible thing it is to pour out your life into someone else. Pass the torch. You can’t take it with you and you’ll be forced to pass it any way. Bow out gracefully when your influence and vigor fade, but always play the background by investing in someone else.
6) Live Life on Purpose
God created you in His image. You’re unique and have a special place over any other species or thing in all of the universe. God created you to glorify Him with your life. Don’t waste it, because one day you will give an account for every word you’ve uttered, and every action you’ve taken (Matthew 12:35-37). Get to Jesus, whatever that takes, get to Jesus. He’s the only one who has ever gotten out of the cemetery alive. That’s your purpose and until you find it in Him, you’re going to wander around always looking for that “thing” or that next big “high” or achievement. At the end of it all, when you build your life on what you’ve done…the whole house of cards will collapse and you’ll realize you had nothing. Live for the reason your were created.
7) Speak Life
Words are the most powerful weapon ever engineered. They can build up or tear down. They create or destroy. They give life or bring death. Use your words for good. Stand up for those who can’t stand up from themselves. Be a voice for the voiceless. Speak life to the dying. Speak hope to the forgotten. Use your words for good, not evil. Bless, don’t curse.
I’m sure there are many, many more ways. What would you add?