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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Teach us to number...

Have you ever planned for a trip, or some big event, and found yourself counting the days until that moment?  I have! In fact, I usually do a countdown till vacation simply because those moments away for refreshing and renewal are not that frequent - I look forward to them with delight.  The process of "counting down" really brings you to a place of anticipation, doesn't it?  I think that is why Advent calendars were invented - to help kids know when they could truly anticipate the time when they would unwrap their presents.  With each passing day, they could look at the calendar and come to a place of knowing how many more "sleeps" it was before the big day.  Most of us don't live with this sense of anticipation everyday, do we?  We might on occasion, but it is not a way of life for us.  I wonder how differently we might see things if we were to truly understand just how short our days on this earth are - would it change how we live each day?

Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom. With every sun’s rising, surprise us with Your love, satisfy us with Your kindness.  Then we will sing with joy and celebrate every day we are alive.  (Psalm 90:12, 14 VOICE)

I think we get to the place of "taking for granted" each new day and every waking breath.  I think I first recognized this when I went into nursing and came face-to-face with individuals who were given very short spans of life to live based on their "terminal diagnosis".  In short order, their worlds were set on end - hearing those words "three months or less" were like a gavel being struck when a judge is issuing a sentence.  No amount of begging or bargaining was going to change the prognosis.  Although treatments may work to "ward off" the inevitable for a later date, the "sentence" was still the same.  Some curled up, went inside to that dark place we can sometimes find inside ourselves, and just stopped living right then and there.  Others fought for every waking breath they had left.  In the end, life was just "too short" or there was "too much left undone or unsaid" for some.

When our psalmist prays, "Teach us to number our days...", he is not being morbid.  Rather, he is asking God to give him a sensitivity to the shortness of life on this earth and the breadth of life into eternity.  In fact, when we begin to consider life this way, we might just become a little less concerned with the shortness of days physically walking around in this body of ours and more concerned with the time we spend after this body is gone!  The psalmist is just putting things into perspective - nothing lasts forever as we know it today.  Stop for a moment and consider how much of God's love, protection, and oversight in your life's events you recognize today.  Now, think back to a time just about a year ago, or maybe even a little longer.  What things between that time and today revealed a little bit more of God's love or care over your lives to you?  What events transpired, how many issues arose where he intervened in beautiful ways, and what about those times when he met with you in some way that simply left you speechless and in awe?  There is so much passage of time, we almost forget about those moments, don't we?

As our psalmist asks for God to help him number his days, he isn't just saying, "God, help me to realize how short time really is for me here on this earth."  He is asking God to help him make the most of each day, so more of God's grace and love is seen in his life and passed on to those around him. When we realize our "limited days", we view each opportunity as a unique experience.  I don't take for granted my days with my grandsons - fewer and fewer between as they grow older and pursue activities which are of interest to them.  I try to make it to some of the baseball games, cheering loudly and just hanging out.  I invite them to help me with projects in the yard which might give us a little time together.  I even put Legos together and build playing card houses.  Why?  My days with them matter - they bring me joy.  God is much like I am with my grandsons - he doesn't take for granted each moment we spend with him - for those moments bring his such joy!

Each new day is an opportunity for us to be surprised with God's kindness and delighted by his love.  I think we might look to be dazzled by his love and overwhelmed by his kindness, but if we change our perspective a little, we might just recognize the simplicity of joy instead of always seeking the fleeting moments of "happiness".  Joy is lasting - it is what forms in those moments of connection.  Happiness is not as reliable - for it is based upon the circumstances. Perhaps our psalmist's prayer is one of seeking connection in a more consistent manner - instead of seeking to have circumstances constantly lined up in a way which never brings sorrow, disappointment, or despair.  When connection is consistent, even the darkest of moments are times when his love is revealed.  Just sayin!