Connecting the Dots

Yesterday, I explained that traveling to Israel was life-changing for me not because visiting pilgrimage sites helped fill some spiritual void, but because seeing the locations where biblical events took place helped me to connect the dots. What do I mean by “connecting the dots?” I’m glad you asked.

As most of us remember from childhood, a connect-the-dots picture consists of a series of numbered dots on a sheet of paper. The object is to start with the dot labeled “1,” then draw a line to the dot labeled “2,” then “3,” and so on through the entire sequence. Like magic, an image begins to emerge as more and more of the dots are connected. Do enough of these, and you eventually get to where you can visualize the picture just by looking at the pattern of dots.

Whenever we communicate, we tend to provide our listener with just enough information to get our message across. Put another way, we offer only as many “dots” as are necessary to convey the picture we want to convey. The better our listener is able to connect the dots, the fewer of those dots we feel compelled to give.

For example, if I were to say to my neighbor, “We went to Gilbert Park for the Fourth,” he would understand immediately that my family and I went to the local park on Independence Day to witness the fireworks display that takes place there every year. Yet there is nothing in my statement that explicitly mentions my family, or fireworks, or even which “Fourth” I mean. Because of our shared context, I can offer a few scattered “dots” of information and rely on him to connect them in a meaningful way.

If I wanted to communicate the same idea to a tourist from another country, I would have to provide much more information: “My family and I went to a local park on the Fourth of July to see a fireworks display in celebration of our national independence.” Depending on how well they knew American history, I might even have to give a brief history lesson.

We see this same dynamic in the Bible. When the book of Joshua says briefly that the Israelites burned down Hazor, its original audience would have understood immediately what a remarkable feat that was. To us, however, Hazor is just one of many places we know very little about. Heck, we’re not even sure how to pronounce them!

When you travel to Israel, you begin to appreciate elements of the biblical narratives which you simply could not see before. You become better able to connect the dots the text provides—dots the authors expected their original audience to connect. It is this opening of the eyes to see which makes visiting Israel truly life-changing.

My goal in writing Feet to Follow, Eyes to See is ultimately to share some of the ways visiting the land helped me to connect the dots. When you come to see those connections yourself, I think you’ll be amazed at the picture that emerges.

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5 Responses to Connecting the Dots

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