Number Your Days Carefully.
“Teach us to number our days carefully, so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” (Psalm 90:12)
I don’t know about you, but numbering my days isn’t easy at the moment. It sounds simple, but I’ve found that in lockdown the days bleed into one another and blur my perception of time. For this blog-post I’ve had to go back carefully and count the days since lockdown started. This is day 16 since the UK government announced the near-total lockdown on Sun 22 Mar, and I’ve been working from home now for over three weeks.
When Moses speaks about numbering our days, he’s not talking about crossing off days on a calendar, working out how long something has lasted or how long we’ve got till some deadline. No, he means something much more profound. In the pursuit of wisdom and effective living, he’s appealing to God to help us spend our time well. This is not just self-awareness but God-centred life-awareness.
Normally I’m a NIV-man through and through, but for this particular verse I prefer the HCSB translation, because it speaks about numbering our days ‘carefully’. Life is to be lived with care, not wasting it or frittering it away with frivolous pursuits or frantic worry. Paul says something similar in Ephesians:
“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
These are evil days, are they not? We need to be wise, or as Moses puts it, we need to develop wisdom in our hearts. That calls for proactiveness on our part. And yes, in these dark, dangerous days, there are opportunities. So instead of longing for lockdown to be over, or rushing to return to normal, may I suggest some opportunities we can take advantage of in this season that will give us a better appreciation of our time and help make us wiser?
First, let’s take the opportunity to slow down. Yes, life is short, but if we constantly rush through it, we’ll waste much of it. Now is a time to slow down, reflect, and rediscover old passions, new joys and simple pleasures. Most of us are far too busy and far too noisy to hear God’s voice, but just like the birdsong now drowns out the roar of traffic, rather than vice versa, let’s listen for God’s voice to rise above the din of life.
Second, let’s be mindful of the fragility of life and be thankful for what we have. It’s good to be alive. This pandemic has shown us how precarious our whole civilisation is, how precious our lives are. A few months ago, most of us were far more preoccupied with what we didn’t have than what we did have. Now is an opportunity to reverse that ratio.
Third, let’s re-evaluate and re-prioritise. What’s really important? A lot of what we used to stress over has been shown to be trivial, or not nearly so indispensable as we thought. Suddenly many of us are beginning to realise how much more important people and relationships are than selfish gain; how much more precious the environment is than our economy; how much more worthwhile community is than capital. Use this time to work out what’s important to you, and what you want to spend your life doing. When the restrictions lift, maybe as individuals and societies we’ll have a chance to change course and pursue better things.
Fourth, let’s share the hope we have. People are crying out for hope right now. The world has nothing to offer here, but Jesus offers us hope for this life and the next. When Paul says ‘making the most of every opportunity’, I don’t think he’s encouraging us to take on everything and say no to nothing; I think he’s urging us to be deliberate and purposeful about sharing the good news of the gospel.
I get the sense that hearts are far more open to Jesus’ message of redemption and reconciliation than they were just a few weeks ago. So, let’s speak out boldly in this time and share the good news that life doesn’t have to be empty and that the grave is nothing to fear.
Whatever you do in this time, use your time well. It’s your most precious resource, your most generous gift. We can’t live our best lives without God, which is why we need Him to teach us. But when we look to Him, we’ll begin to understand why He put us here; what to focus on and what to forget, what to do and what to deny, what to pursue and what to pass by.
PS. This fabulous long-exposure star image was taken by my brother Chris in 2014. We were in the heart of the Grand Canyon, and under those amazing night skies I discovered this verse for the first time. Looking at that un-moving North Star, I learnt that no matter what is going on in our lives, God is constant and true wisdom lies in Him alone.
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