For several weeks, since the weather has actually started to feel like Spring, I have utilized every opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. My new routine has been a 6am early morning walk through the streets of Waukesha where I listen to worship music, drink coffee, think, pray and ponder. It’s taken me about two weeks to map my route as I get bored with the same scenery every day. So each day I choose to start in a different direction to add some variety to my morning.
In sticking with my routine this morning, even on the weekends, I decided to go a little bit further and walk a little bit longer than usual. I spontaneously started in a westward direction, coffee in hand, breathing in the purity of a new day. Pacing at a fairly slow and relaxed speed, I took in my surroundings and enjoyed the splendor of a beautiful daybreak. These early morning walks have been a great therapeutic addition to the chaos of life; reminding me of how beautiful life is and how much I appreciate being alive. These walks have allowed me to think more deeply about my purpose and also pray more faithfully to the God who created me.
However, this morning’s walk was much different than the rest. I was familiar with the streets and I was familiar with the area but I was not familiar with my surroundings. As I paced leisurely around this large open land I couldn’t help but notice that I was circling around a cemetery. I had driven these streets daily; I had even walked and ran these sidewalks several times before. But today was the first day I recognized the significance of my location. I abruptly halted my leisure pace, turned the volume all the way down on my music and sat on the edge of where the grass meets the pavement of a fully populated graveyard…the sun was just rising and there was hardly a civilian or car in sight.
In any other situation I would have sped up my stride in order to get away from the area; cemeteries have always creeped me out. Probably because I watched too many horror flicks growing up. But this time I was convicted to stop. And not only stop, but sit down. I gleaned at a distance to some of the plots where real people’s bodies lay at rest. I couldn’t help but think of my own loved ones whose bodies lay still underground in a similar plot just in a different location. It reminded me of how precious life really is and how much the sunrise meant to me today, because for the souls I was sitting amongst, they couldn’t see it. And someday, I wouldn’t be able to either.
I could not muster the courage to walk through the grounds but what I could see within close proximity of where I was sitting were the names of people…and underneath the names were their birth dates and death dates, separated by a dash. A while back, Chris Brady produced an incredible LIFE leadership audio titled “The Dash” and this talk has always remained etched in my mind. However, it wasn’t until this morning, that my dash first became real to me as I sat in the silence of that land.
I had a conversation with a friend just yesterday who I was introducing LIFE leadership to and ironically our conversation consisted of the very topic I am writing about today. God’s timing is so amazing.
Her paraphrased words were, “once the initial sting of my death wears off (to my loved ones), I wonder who will actually miss me or remember me? Will I have made enough of a difference for people to continue talking about me after I am gone…?”
Such a powerful question that I believe very few people ever ask themselves. And I am proud of her for asking it. Are we afraid to ask ourselves that question because we don’t want to accept the fact that someday we are going to die? Are we afraid to ask ourselves because we don’t want the responsibility and pressure of doing something important or significant with our lives? That was definitely me. For a long time I naively believed that my dash would last forever…as long as I didn’t think about it. And if I didn’t think about it then it didn’t matter if I accomplished anything important each day. I was successfully getting myself one step closer to death safely.
As I sat there this morning, looking at a field of hundreds of stones, I thought about all the people who had the potential to do something great with their lives but may have never had the courage to ask that question. Names forgotten…people forgotten. They went to the grave with ‘potential’ regrets; their lives ended and so did their legacy. Sadly, buried beneath the soils around the world and even blocks from our homes are people who never accomplished their dreams because they never had the audacity to pursue them: songs that were never sung, books that were never written, words that were never spoken, lives that were never touched, inventions that were never designed, plans that were never acted on, ideas that were never shared, stories that were never told and purposes that were never fulfilled – people who naively believed their dash would last forever. People who had the potential to leave a powerful and lasting legacy, but ran out of time. I know this is not very encouraging but I sure hope it is motivating.
I reflect back on certain seasons of my life where I didn’t have goals, I didn’t have a purpose and I didn’t have a dream or a cause I was chasing after…they were very depressing, insignificant, boring and unfulfilling times of my life. I just imagine if my dash ended in the midst of my complacency – how would I have been remembered then?…scary thought. I thank God that those seasons didn’t consume me for several years but that He was patient with me in my temporary darkness. Sadly, for many Americans, this type of lifestyle is ‘normal’ and ‘common’ and often people don’t even realize the insignificance of their life because they are being deceived into thinking that it’s all okay; and they live this way for years…sometimes their entire life. But, it’s not okay. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
I feel a major sense of urgency as I write this…not just for myself but for everyone I come in contact with. None of us will ever escape death. As Terri Brady said on a recent audio, “there is a too late…” And as George Guzzardo says, “there is a finish line we will all eventually cross.”
The question is, will your life be buried and forgotten with ‘potential’ regrets or remembered and talked about because you lived your life well and made a difference?