Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Days of our Lives
Teach us to number our days that we may present to thee a heart of wisdom Psalm 90:12 NASB
Many years ago, I read in a book called "Creative Counterpart," about a woman who took this verse literally. When this woman was thirty, she chose a number based on the average lifespan for women at that time -- seventy.
She asked herself, "If I live to be 70, how many days would I have left on this earth?"
She was surprised by how tangible the answer was! 14,600 days!
If we set out to count 14,600 jelly beans, we'd think that was a large number. When it comes to the days left in a lifetime, however, that figure doesn't sound so numerous; does it? It's a number that we can actually get our minds around.
What if you break it down even further? What if you counted how many Mondays you would have if you lived forty more years? If I did the math correctly, a thirty year old woman who lived to be seventy would have 2,080 Mondays left!
This woman was inspired when she first "numbered" her days. She was excited about living them well. However, she soon forgot all about the experiment She re-did it a few years later, and found that the number of days left until age 70 had reduced to 12,000 days.
"Where did they go?" she wondered. "What did I do with those 2,600 days?"
I can so relate to that woman's comment! When I first read Creative Counterpart, I did the same experiment. That was 20 years ago, at least. This illustration impacted me, and I remembered it from time from time to time over the years, but not on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, it seems that some weeks and months do zip by at lightening speed.
My days are full and rich, and it always seems to me as if our family packs a lot of living into a year. In one sense, I look back and I think about all we've done, and I can't believe that it's only been a year since a particular occasion. In another since, I am always amazed when another birthday pops up or another holiday season rolls around.
"It seems like we celebrated last Thanksgiving just the other day," I'll think, as I'm buying the turkey for this year.
Today, I took this book off the shelf and happened to flip to the same page where the author described the woman who numbered her days. So, I decided to do this exercise again.
Here's my math. Since lifespans have increased, I chose to work with the number 75 instead of 70. That puts me at 8,395 days if the Lord wills that I live so long. And, that puts my Mondays at only 1,196!
Of course, none of us knows how many days we each have available to count. The Lord has determined that. And, I don't think he intended this verse to mean that we should literally try to estimate our lifespan.
But, this exercise does illustrate a point that we all know in our heads, but sometimes fail to grasp in our hearts: Life on this earth is brief. If we are smart, we will invest our treasures in the next world, rather than in this one. We will make the most of every opportunity to love God, to love others, and to shine as a light in the darkness. And, we will be patient, knowing that every day -- whether it is full of joys or it is a trying one -- is bringing us closer to home.
I suppose this is a timely thought for me, as my 87 year old father is recovering from emergency service at our house. In the process of taking care of him, I have been around many more older people than I normally would be. At the same time, my parents-in-law are moving into a retirement community.
Besides, I've just had a birthday, myself. I'm well into middle age. I'm not as young and strong and healthy and mentally sharp as a twenty year old. I can feel that in my physical body and in how long it takes me to remember things. Yet, I'm also younger and stronger and quicker in mind than I might be at some point in the future.
God is giving me a window into the aging process. The experience is helping me appreciate and value the older people in my life even more than I have. And, it's inspiring me to think about how I'm investing each day.
We all have moments when we sense with all of our being how fleeting the time is. Perhaps, we come across a photograph of our parents when they were young. Or, an athletic feat that seemed so easy when we were seventeen now leaves us aching. Or, our precious little boy reaches his first birthday or his tenth or his twentieth. Or, we wonder how it can possibly be that our baby girl is married and having a baby of her own.
At times like these, we taste the bitter and the sweet together. We celebrate all the wonderful blessings that time has brought to us. Yet, we feel a pang for losses, as well.
In a way, the nostalgia that we feel is heaven tugging on our heartstrings. We may not realize it, but we all long to be at home in a place where time is always our friend and never our foe. We all have, in the core of our being, a longing to be with God forever, to be in a place where we will see departed loved ones again, to live in a place where our service to God will not diminish with age, and to live in a home where there is no pain, no sorrow, and no good-byes. For the true Christian, every day is simply one day closer to our real home -- heaven.
So, if we are seeking God with all of our hearts, we shouldn't approach the brevity and frailty of life with a morbid attitude. Nor, should we dwell in guilt over lost opportunities or misused time and years. Instead, we should let the short span of our earthly existence help us sort out our priorities. When we really take hold of this concept, our hearts do grow wiser.