I have a problem with math, which is slightly ironic since my father was a math teacher. My biggest trouble with numbers is that I’m lousy at counting. Or perhaps more accurately (!), I don’t stop and figure out:
- how long will it take me to do something
- how far is it to get somewhere
- how much will this activity cost
Probably the most important thing I ignore is time. I know it is precious but you wouldn’t think so, given how I can spend my days frittering away at this and that*. Too often I live as if I have all the time in the world–which I don’t. As the psalmist so bluntly reminds us:
The years of our lives pass quickly, like a sigh.
Look, You make my days short-lived,
and my life span is nothing from Your perspective.
Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but vapor. **
I don’t know about you, but to me reading that feels like a bracing swim in a winter pond.
It would be nice to slow down time, but I can’t. It keeps flowing on. As summer and its long lazy days passed, I found myself looking ahead to the fall. I knew I would only have so many hours to spend and I thought about what my focus should be:
- In my relationships
- In my work
- In my service
- In my sabbath-keeping
As I considered these priorities, I realized that I needed to learn how to count, like the psalmist who prayed, “Teach us to number our days.”
O Lord, help me understand my mortality
and the brevity of life!
Let me realize how quickly my life will pass! ***
Then I discovered God’s response to my dilemma:
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
for He knows how we are formed,
He remembers that we are dust. [Psalm 103:13-14}
That’s right. Compassion. My heavenly Father knows me. He knows my talents, my weaknesses, my human limitations. And instead of asking me to work harder or more efficiently, He offers me His compassion.
He also gives me hope for the future: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” [Psalm 23:6]
I found that the phrases “all the days of my life” and “dwell in the house of the Lord” are also repeated in Psalm 27:
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek Him in His temple.
Yet when I read that, my first thought was, “I can’t spend all my time gazing on the Lord, there is work to be done.”
Then I remembered Martha in Luke 10 who was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made and asked Jesus to tell her sister to get a move on. His response was, “…only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.”
That’s God’s answer to the math problem of my life. One. One thing is needed. My days are dwindling, but there is only one thing I really need to do, and that is focusing on Him.
I confess that’s hard for me to even write, let alone put it into practice. Still that’s what He teaches me. The oughts and shoulds and want-tos in my life do not come from Him. His path is simple and His yoke is easy.
He only desires that I learn to sit quietly before Him,
enjoying His beauty;
listening to His stories;
and receiving water and food and fresh strength as I follow Him home.
What about you? When can you spend some time listening to Jesus?
*Speaking of frittering: back in the dark ages, my downfall was looking at all the mail order catalogs that flooded our mailbox. Now it’s browsing on the internet.
**Psalm 90:6 and Psalm 39:5
***Psalm 90:12 and Psalm 39:4