To number our days
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
— Psalm 90:12 (NIV)
Jeff’s days are numbered. But so are mine, and yours, and everybody’s.
One of the benefits of slamming face-first into the reality of our own mortality is implied in the verse above. I’ve found that many of the things that once bothered me seem laughably minor now. Others, while still serious, have been put into perspective.
This is a lesson we began to experience in depth when Matt was born and struggled to survive his first week of life. The passing years made it ever clearer. Still, it wasn’t until Jeff’s diagnosis that we realized our insight never was as clear as we thought it was.
It’s an oft-repeated cliché: it takes a crisis to open our eyes to what really matters. As with so many other platitudes (“you’ll understand when you’re older” or “just wait until you have children of your own” or “when you have your health, you have everything”) we eventually find out that these bromides are watered down from profound experiences.
The good news is that we don’t have to endure crisis firsthand to learn from it. Long before illness and death touched us personally, I believed (though not completely understanding) that there is wisdom in acknowledging the uncertainty and brevity of life. History, literature, and theology all carry powerful teaching to guide us in honoring the gift of life wisely.
Even for those of us who believe this life is a way station, a passage into eternity, the idea of death is not normally appealing. I’ve found, though, that the older I get, the more I can feel the promised “peace that passes understanding” about the inevitability of physical decline and death. As the years pass and the candles on our cakes grow more numerous, I hope the added light they give is a symbol of the spiritual illumination that comes from the wisdom of numbering our days.