Teach Us to Number Our Days Aright

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“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). In this short phrase we are challenged to face the reality of our mortality. Our days are numbered. Only God knows the length of them for each and every one of us. We know objectively that our lives are short in the great expanse of time, and certainly in eternity. Subjectively, this thought sometimes causes us discomfort. But, it is our reality. We are going to die one day. When? We cannot know.

As Christians, we have the advantage of our faith. We believe in “the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body and the life to come” (Apostle’s Creed). In faith, this is enough for us. With this faith, we look upon life’s shortness without fear, but with faith, hope, and love. The psalmist’s faith only had the hope of the Promise that had been given to Abraham and his children. Because of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have seen that Promise fulfilled and we live within it, here and now.

That is why, as Christians, we are to live as fully as possible in the present moment. As C.S. Lewis tells us in his Screwtape Letters, the present moment is where we encounter the Infinite and Eternal God. The “NOW” is where he is found. The past is real, but it no longer is, except as memory and lessons learned. We are to let go of our anxieties over our past failures by giving them over to God. His forgiveness, his mercy, and his grace are enough for us to find peace with our past. To fear the future is foolishness. As Christians, the fear of the still-not-here-future is no longer there for us. We know that we are going to die, but we also know that God’s kindness and mercy follows us every day of our lives. We know that he has prepared a place in heaven for those who have remained faithful to his love and his commands. And we know that he has called us to follow him. We can only do that now, today, in each moment.

It is our faith in Jesus Christ that teaches us this, and it also makes it possible for us to “number our days aright.” In this faith, we gain the wisdom of living each day in the now moment, for Christ, for his sake alone. We believe that, “THIS is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24). How do we rejoice and be glad? By living his commandments faithfully in the here and now. By being present to God and to one another fully, here and now. When we live with this consciousness of the presence of God and of his will for us we are more alive than when we sleepwalk through our days, or spend inordinate amounts of our time worrying over our past errors, or being afraid of what is yet to come in some future time, that may not come, given the shortness of our days on earth. We know that the Holy Spirit is with us, in this moment. Let us stop and be with him in this moment. Let us listen to his guidance and his encouragement to us, in this moment. Let us live fully with him in our hearts, right now, in this moment. Then we will have learned to number our days aright. This day is the day that God has given us, that he sustains and supports in every moment. If this moment is a time of difficulty, lean into his presence for assurance and strength. If this moment is a time of joy, praise him and thank him for his immeasurable graces. If you see someone in need, meet that need lovingly and generously, in that moment. This is the day he has made with and for you. Live it! Live it fully, in his name. Amen.

Lord, It is one thing to be able to contemplate your presence and your graces, but to live in them, to actually be what you want us to be, is difficult for us without your generous grace. We desire in the depths of our hearts to live fully in you today. Bless us with the gift of attentiveness. Help us to be and to stay fully awake in each moment, for you, and for our neighbors. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.