“What do you have to live for?”
American psychologist William Marston asked three thousand people this question. An astonishing 94 percent were living in the present, but waiting for something in the future. As I look at the choices I make and why I make them, they sometimes reflect the mentality of the 94 percent. Linda Dillow, the author of Calm My Anxious Heart, writes that “many [people] today are nearsighted, not in their eyesight, but in their life focus. They don’t know why they’re here or where they’re going.”1 Dr. Swenson, author of Margin, says “we must have a vision that extends beyond tomorrow. Living from week to week is like a dot-to-dot life.”1
We live “dot-to-dot” lives for multiple reasons. One reason is that we have something in the future that we believe will be the height of our lives. Perhaps it’s graduation, our wedding day, the day we land our dream job, the day we have children, the day the children leave the house, or the day we can FINALLY retire. So, we create dots, and each dot is the next step in our foolproof plan to reach the goal. As long as we can make it to the next dot (in correct number order, of course) we will make it, and be happy. Is this what God wants for us? Psalm 118:24 says, “THIS is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (NLT, emphasis mine). Each day is important, and we should live like it is.
Another reason we go dot-to-dot is because we’re so consumed with what’s going on in the moment. We’re worn out from life, and if we can just make it to the next event, we’ll be okay. We scramble, fret, cry, go to bed, wake up, and do it all over again the next day. Is this the “abundant life” Jesus was talking about in John 10:10 (HCSB)? In Ephesians 5:17 Paul says, “do not act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you do” (NLT). Although there may be moments of madness, that’s not what our life should consist of.
How do we stop living “dot-to-dot” lives? When we look to our Creator, we see He has a purpose, and has had a purpose since the day He created the earth. “From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries” (Acts 17:26, NLT). God doesn’t do things off the cuff. Each decision He has made and will make has been decided upon beforehand. Genesis 1:27 tells us that God created us in His image, to be a reflection of Him. Therefore, if we live as people with a faulty focus, not understanding our purpose, we’re not displaying Christ in the way He intended. We must determine our purpose, and how we can live it out most effectively.
The simplest way to describe our purpose is found in Colossians 1:16: “…all things have been created through Him and for Him” (HCSB). The reason for our existence is for Him, and to glorify Him in all we do. We were all created completely different, so our means of fulfilling that purpose will vary. Dillow writes, “we must correct our faulty focus and become [people] of purpose. A good way to begin is with a purpose statement that defines what we believe and where we want to be.” Many organizations have purpose, or mission, statements that help dictate their priorities and decision-making. For example, Choices Life Resource Center, a Christian ministry, is “dedicated to preserving the value of human life by providing abortion alternatives, practical assistance, and education to the Cross Timbers area.” As their board gathers every couple of weeks, they keep this statement in mind. When a difficult decision arises, they look to their initial mission to help them focus on their purpose. I have a personal mission statement that I created through reading scripture and prayer: “Resolved, to graciously pursue God, people, and wisdom and live with a due sense of responsibility all of my days.” When I find myself scrambling, living dot-to-dot, I have to stop and remember my purpose. God’s ultimate desire is for His name to be known, and He wants to use us to accomplish that. If we recognize our purpose and make prayerful, specific statements to fulfill it, we will be more effective disciples.
1. Dillow, Linda. Calm My Anxious Heart. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998. Print.