Thursday, May 30, 2013

Numbering . . . not Counting

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90: 12).

I’ve been numbering my days lately. Maybe you have too.

I’m not talking about something morbid or morose. The kind of numbering I’ve been doing, the kind that Psalm 90 speaks of, isn’t done with a calendar. It has little to do with counting or measuring time and more to do with entering into it, sensing how it moves and pondering what it means. That’s what I’ve been doing.

The school year ended last week. When it begins again both of my kids will be in high school. I can’t help but utter that familiar and clichéd question: “When did that happen?” I know very well when it happened. It happened while Marnie and I were just holding on through the demands of their infancy. It happened while we were being so intentional about getting them ready for their future.

With our gaze firmly fixed in one direction we easily miss all the things that are accumulating behind us. By the time we really notice them, they’re gone. We wonder how it happened and sense the inexorable movement of the years.

The Psalmist speaks of numbering our days within the context of prayer, a petition spoken to God. The request asks God to “teach us” to number our days. We don’t do this naturally. We need help. Day numbering is a learned behavior.

Usually the help we get comes to us as some kind of reminder that our days have a limit. The reminder may be as simple as a graduation or New Year’s Eve. Sometimes a tragedy forces us to number our days. Regardless of how or why, we need to be faced with the truth that our days do not stretch out before us in infinite supply. It doesn’t matter how well you eat and how often you work out. There’s a limit to our days. The hard part is facing the limit with courage and gratitude. This is how we number our days. It has little to do with counting.

Some refuse to number their days because it makes them fearful and anxious. Others refuse to number their days because they regard that kind of thing as depressing or sad. According to the Psalm, both of those reactions are mistaken. In the Psalm, numbering our days makes us neither anxious nor depressed. It makes us wise.

Those who “gain a heart of wisdom” are those who have also gained clarity about what life is for. To number our days is to recognize that every single day comes to us as a gift, and what we do with every day is determined by the giver. To number our days doesn’t diminish life, it enhances it.

What life events have taught you how to number your days? How will you live this one?

Teach us to number our days, O Lord, and make us wise in the learning. Guard us from the fear and sadness that grasps at time but fails to live. Make us bold and glad in our living, trusting you for every day, honoring you in the way we live. Grant us a heart of wisdom we pray, Amen.

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