Past choices and future connections
By QuaWanna Bannarbie
Now that we are near the end of a very long year, I am sure that many of you have done much reflecting on the events of 2020. We take for granted that looking back is really a gift to us.
Most of us look forward to the end of the year because of the celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s Day. We highly anticipate the opportunities that we have to begin again on the first day of January. Looking back allows us moments to take a good account of what our personal history has done for us. Experience is a good teacher.
Wouldn’t it be something if we had a line graph to track our responses to life in the same way we track weight loss or product sales or other achievements? Supposedly there is something like that. It is called a life graph. Students of history or English have used a similar concept to illustrate the main events of a character’s life in a story or novel. It is more of a timeline than it is a line graph.
We may not have an all-encompassing graph that tells our history in great detail, but I submit that reflecting on how far you have come, acknowledging the ways you have changed and revisiting lessons that you have learned from the things you have gone through help you connect the dots. The main reason that looking back is a gift is because the function of connecting dots is continuous.
There are no perfect straight lines in our life graphs.
Connecting dots is storytelling. In 2005, Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech before an audience at Stanford University. He said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” I have a saying of my own regarding moments in my life that have significant meaning. When I don’t always understand why something is happening but I trust that there is a reason, I say to my Heavenly Father, “I see the dots. I may not know how they connect, but I want You to know that I know that this is a dot.” Identifying the dots in our lives is as important if not more important than being able to connect them. If there are no dots, there are no lines between them.
I love the Advent season, because we have the opportunity to reflect on the fullness of time in which God sent the Savior in fulfillment of prophecy. In the book of Isaiah, long before Christ’s birth, the prophet speaks, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God as well? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel. By the time He knows enough to reject evil and choose good, He will be eating curds and honey” (Isaiah 7:13-15). The people of that time understood that those who believed in Him must be prepared for His coming. They trusted that the present dots would connect to the future dot of the Messiah’s birth.
Reflecting on yesterday helps us to prepare for our tomorrows, particularly the tomorrow we wish to see.
During a recent session with my Bible study, our facilitator asked us to consider the criteria by which we make decisions. From her lecture, I had to confront the question of whether I make decisions based upon whether they will have an impact on my spiritual life and particularly where I will spend eternity. As I considered that question, I realized that there is a great difference in looking forward to tomorrow and choosing forward.
As we look back on this year and consider what is next, it is my prayer that I will not just put my thoughts in the future, hoping for a better tomorrow, but make choices for the future. Ultimately, every decision we make will reflect our eternal destiny. If we trust that these present dots will connect to the future dot of Jesus Christ’s return, then we must prepare and decide well.
QuaWanna Bannarbie an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Connect with her via firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.