Connecting the Dots: An Exercise in Understanding Life

As a child, I worked with books containing several different kinds of exercises: coloring pages, mazes, crossword puzzles and connect the dots.  My favorite was connecting the dots. On the most complex pages, you could not tell what the picture was until you had completed the process of connecting dot number one with dot number two, etc. until the last dot had been connected. The resulting picture was in the background. The creator of the page had it in mind before he removed the lines that connected each dot. His aim was for the picture to be discovered after the dots were connected.

I remember some of the “aha” moments I had when I had finally connected enough dots to see what the picture was going to be, but finished the exercise anyway because I wanted to see the completed picture. I might then color it, but I often left it just as it was when the last dot had been connected because I had seen all I needed to see. The delight was in finding the hidden picture.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., gave a speech to the graduating class at Stanford University in June 2005. His first point caught my attention. It was about connecting the dots.

Steve’s story of connecting the dots had to do with his own life. He was where he was in business because of a series of events that happened, some beyond his control: circumstances surrounding his adoption as a child, his quitting college and deciding to pursue his personal interests, his being fired at the company he started, etc. All this led him to a point where he was able to accomplish certain other things. Connecting those dots in retrospect helped him see the fuller picture of why he was able to do the things he did.

He said connecting the dots is only possible when you look back on life, but when you do connect them, situations that at first seemed to be negative can sometimes lead to a positive outcome.

Connecting the dots is my favorite way to study the Bible. The many ways to study God’s word, such as verse-by-verse exposition, character analysis, theme, book study, etc., all have great value. The important thing is to spend time reading His word, asking Him to reveal His truth to you, and making the application when it has been revealed.

Often, when I am reading God’s word, I notice the repetition of a word or a concept and start connecting those dots. For instance, when I was reading through the letters the apostle Paul wrote, I started noticing similarities in his prayers. The result of that study was a book: The Prayer Driven Life. Paul’s prayers included prayers of blessings, thanksgiving for the saints, praise and thanksgiving to God, petitions to God on behalf of the saints, and benedictions. I never would have discovered those groupings of prayers had I not connected the dots that flowed from Romans through Philemon.

Connecting the dots of God’s word is exciting to me.  Many of my Bible studies have started that way. Connecting the dots between His word, history and current events makes sense. Reading the Bible is as currently relevant as reading today’s newspaper. Connecting the dots between His word and the events of life takes the focus off myself and onto His plan.

Steve Jobs was partially right. We connect the dots in our own lives by looking backwards. Christians, however, have an advantage: one of faith and trust in God who has a plan. The resulting picture of our completed lives was already in our Creator’s mind before we were ever born. His plan connects the dots of our past and present with our future. As I watch the picture He created unfold, I know I can trust the Creator to do all that is right.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:15-16).

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