“The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life.”
— Billy Graham
In March I celebrated my 58th birthday. The day came and went with little pomp or circumstance, which suited me just fine as I was busy trying to figure out how it got here in the first place.
A minute ago I was addressing the attendees at my high school commencement: delivering a speech on, of all things, the brevity of life —cleverly tying into our graduation theme song, “Dust in the Wind” (Kansas, 1977).
By popular vote, that song won the commencement seat of honor. Replaying it in my memory it struck me as oddly philosophical and a bit cryptic for 70’s teenagers. Still it was trendy, kind of catchy and was in the Top-40. Of course we hadn’t a clue the lyrics were actually true.
I was stopped in my tracks yesterday as I glanced at the wall calendar in my kitchen and realized that 3 of its 12 pages have already been turned. Exactly half of the squares on the current page have been checked off as well.
115 days of the New Year are behind us —250 days remain. People are still enthusiastically announcing their “word” for the year and a third of it is already behind us.
King David’s musing about the brevity of life swirled through my mind like the chilly spring breeze gusting through the slider next to me.
The transient nature of human life is something none of us truly understood that spring day as our theme song floated across the stadium. Thanks to life —both the essence AND the teacher of this reality— I think I’m starting to get it.
So a few years ago, I got serious about asking the Lord for longevity. I figured it was a topic I had never really discussed with Him, and I should probably let Him know my preferences. If He should see fit to grant my request to witness my own centennial, I would have 42 years remaining. One glance over my shoulder reminds me how fast the first 58 have gone and I suspect that even a hundred will not seem enough. It is indeed the disappearing vapor spoken of by James.
There is no better tutor of this truth than the journey of motherhood. I can mask the passage of time in my own life with a bit of makeup (the good kind), a nice color job on my hair, and a bit of effort put into keeping with current fashion trends – all tricks that can make us feel a bit less fleeting.
Children on the other hand, are oracles of unadulterated truth. One minute you’re holding them in your arms and the next they’re holding you at arms-length, asserting their own independence. Life moves from breastfeeding to bras, high-chair to driver’s licenses, and pull-ups to send-offs at blinding speed.
Try as we may, we cannot stop the passage of time. We can’t even slow it down. As desperately as we try, we cannot save “Time in a Bottle”. (Jim Croce, 1973).
But whereas we have no power over the movement of life, we DO have the power to change our perception of life through an intentional change in our perspective.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
The gem hidden in this little verse is priceless: simple, yet profound enough that to fully grasp it is a bit like taking hold of time itself.
Beyond musing about the brevity of life, Moses seeks the wisdom to make each day count. It is certain we cannot change the ‘measure’ of our life. Yet the promise of this verse is that we CAN influence the ‘fullness’ of our life by considering each day.
We can easily allow life to slip by unnoticed. I know this full well because I’ve done it. I have allowed days to slip through my fingers, whole seasons to pass by barely noticed. Years have come to waste in the foggy marshlands of depression, discontent, bitterness or just plain distraction.
Or we can choose to live each day with intention —not just showing up, but being fully present. We can choose to tune our hearts to the cadence of life; ponder it, savor it, and look for the beauty in each moment. The choice is ultimately ours.
“Teach us to number our days…”
In order to number something one must be mindful of it. You must reach out and touch it, consider it, acknowledge it.
There are 250 beads in my jar today; one for each day remaining of the year 2018. Each bead represents a single day in the narrative of my life.
Each is different from the next: some simple and some ornate, some ordinary and some grand, a few more memorable than others. But each is beautiful, unique and valuable in its own right. Each has its share of wisdom to be sought after.
My life is a procession of individual days strung together like beads in a strand; the full measure of which only the Lord knows.
What I do know is that each day is mine only from the rising to the setting of the sun. It is fleeting and must be cherished while it is here. Once it slips from my hand, it is gone forever.
Lord, I thank you for every ‘bead’ in the strand of my life.
I echo the psalmist’s prayer. Teach me to number each day —to reach out and touch it, hold it, consider its beauty; to recognize it for the gift that it is, and embrace it with a thankful heart.
Each holds new mercies, has Kingdom purpose and is your love GIFT to me. I pray not one more day will slip by unnoticed, or unappreciated.