“Are you living for the dot or the line?”
I first heard that question from my friend Brent. And it challenges me still.
Put on your high school geometry hat for just a moment. The “dot” on a graph or a number line stands for a discrete point. One small blip on the line or the plane. But a line – well, a line is actually infinite. We can’t draw it that way, of course. But one of the things that makes a line a line is that it could stretch on forever and ever.
So in this case, the “dot” is actually a set of dates – the ones that will appear on your epitaph. Born this date, died this date. Our lives are a blip on the screen, a dot on a line, a small piece of a much larger timeline.
And, of course, the “line” is eternity. Infinite. Never-ending. Eternal.
The Bible is very clear that humans, unlike any other part of earth’s creation, are infinite beings. We will all live forever. It is part of what it means to be created in the image of God. Obviously, this body will wear out and eventually disintegrate into dust. But there is a part of every person, what the Bible would call the soul, which will live on into infinity.
The Bible is also very clear that your eternal life will take place in one of two places – or, more accurately, one of two relational positions. Eternal life for the person who says, “I am a sinner in need of a Savior; I believe Jesus died in my place and I want to live for Him” is life with God. Life without pain. Without tears. Without sickness. Without sin. But eternal life for the person who says, “No thanks God, I am putting my trust in (fill in the blank)” is life without God. Eternal separation. Eternal darkness. Eternal pain. Weeping, wailing, teeth-grinding isolation.
So we are all eternal beings. But, for the eternal being who has accepted Christ’s work on the cross, there are still choices to be made in this life. And those choices can be categorized in these two ways: A choice to live for the dot. The here and now. Pleasure. Popularity. People’s opinions. Profit. Political correctness. Or a choice to live for the line. The now AND the not yet. The certainty that the end of this life is the beginning of real life. And the desire to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” when this body fails and the soul is in His presence.
Living for the dot. Or living for the line.
All this God-stuff is great in theory. But it isn’t until the rubber meets the road on life’s highways that it gets really real. Breaking it down…
Living for the Dot: My Dad’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s, my friend living with MS and my other friend battling cancer are all losers. They have lost out in the great gamble of who gets good health and who doesn’t. Their lives are defined by their diagnoses. The great cosmic question of “fair” vs. “unfair” runs the emotions and in some ways, the entire show. God is bad, unfair, just plain mean. They must desperately grasp all that they can, as quickly as they can, from doctors, technology, and this world.
Living for the Line: They live realizing that those diagnoses are the result of a sinful, fallen world. Each one was sifted through the hand of God before being allowed to touch their lives. In the bad that God has allowed, He is working amazing good in their lives. Using their pain to comfort others. Growing their faith. Making them living testimonies. Knowing and truly believing that this life is not all there is. One day, my Dad will walk beside Jesus, enjoying a whole, healthy body free of tremors, pain and slow deterioration. One day, my friend will not need her scooter, her medication or her doctors. And my other friend will never have to think about another chemo treatment or what the future may hold. All that will be resolved. All that will be healed. All will be made right. And because each of them know that, they radiate hope even as they wrestle with their bodies. They gratefully use the tools God has given to fight the diseases. They ask Him for healing in the here and now. But they put their hope firmly in the “then” and the “not yet”. Living for the line means living with hope even in the midst of the worst circumstances.
Living for the Dot: Some of us don’t face life-threatening diseases. Instead, we deal with the physical failings of the body that won’t kill us – they just make us completely miserable. Migraines. Arthritis. Fibromyalgia. Celiac disease and other food sensitivities. The slow and weary grind of chronic pain. If I am living for the dot, these things cause a severe depression. Again, I am a loser in this life. I have three of the four listed above. Pain is my friend. And eating out is always a game of Russian roulette. Nothing in the restaurant will kill me – but most of the menu will make me miserable. So, if I am living the dot, that makes me grumpy at best and seriously depressed at worst.
Living for the Line: If I am living with heaven in mind, then there is hope. Again, this is not the end. One day I will be able to eat that crusty bread dipped in olive oil. One day, I will have an ooey, gooey cinnamon roll with a cup of hot coffee that has real cream in it. Or those things just won’t matter. But one day for sure, I will be able to bend over without pain. One day my knees and my feet won’t betray me. And that day is coming rapidly. Because this life really is a dot! So for now, I will choose health over pleasure. I will choose to treat this failing temple that is my body as well as I possibly can so that I am not derailed from serving. But I will also allow each pain to point me to eternity. To the day when the real, eternal me will be face to face with Jesus – and, as Teresa of Avila said, “In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”
There are so many more examples I could give!
Living for the dot, I will marry the person who makes my body flush with desire, regardless of the state of his soul.
Living for the line, I will marry the man who draws me closer to the One we both love, the man with whom I can best serve. And I will remain single – and pure – until God brings him my way.
Living for the dot, I will be consumed with what I have, the possessions I own, or the state of my accounts.
Living for the line, I will be consumed with the economy of heaven, storing my treasures there by investing my earthly wealth in heavenly things.
Living for the dot, I will allow the craziness of politics, media, and how I feel about all of that to drive my conversations, my social media postings, and my feelings about you.
Living for the line, I will pray for the President and every other leader, regardless of my feelings. I will be obedient to the Word and will respect my leaders simply because God allowed them to be in charge.
And it goes on and on.
How I dress.
What I read.
What I watch.
What I listen to.
Who I care about.
How I express that care.
How I spend my time.
How I treat my enemies.
Each day is a choice.
Each moment, really.
My perspective or His?
My word or His Word?
My emotions or His heart?
Dot? Or line?