Counting our Days and Making our Days Count
The end of July brings us closer to “the dog days of summer,” the warmest weeks of the year. The summer season affects most of our calendars. The traditional school calendar has the largest impact, creating different routines for families with school-age children and determining the window for most people’s vacation days. Even if your personal schedule doesn’t change in the summer, you are still likely affected by the vacation schedules of other people you work with, lighter traffic on work weeks and heavier traffic on weekends, and the need to cope with heat waves and summer thunderstorms.
Our summer schedule adjustments are just one of the many ways that we are constantly adapting to the challenge of keeping track of time. I’ve noticed three groups of people who seem to have gotten a handle on managing their time: people in the military, people in management, and people in monasteries. Military organizations follow a rigorous and disciplined schedule. Managers and MBA-types are constantly monitoring, measuring, and maximizing personal and organizational use of time. Monastic communities follow a rhythm of set times for prayer and work that has been observed for centuries.
Unfortunately for me, I don’t belong to either of these three groups. I struggle mightily to swim against the steady current of time, seemingly making little progress. Recently, I’ve found help in coping with the challenges of “filling the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds of distance run” in a prayer found in Psalm 90, verse 12.
“Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.”
Psalm 90 is a Scripture that is primarily about time. The problem it names is that God has all the time in the world, yet we have very little. The psalm compares our few days on earth to a three hour watch that passes in the night, while we are asleep! The time is gone before you know it. The wisdom that Psalm 90 teaches us is to count our days. Since our days on earth are limited, each one counts. In fact, each one is precious because it is rare.
What does it mean to count our days? Psalm 90 gives us two clues to help us. One is in the title of the psalm, “A prayer of Moses, the man of God.” Moses led the Israelites on a 40 year journey through the wilderness. He knew something about passing the time! The second clue is in verse 14. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love.” This verse alludes to the Israelites journey through the wilderness when they went out in the morning six days of week to gather the manna that satisfied their hunger day by day. On the seventh day, the Sabbath, the people rested because God provided a double portion for them on the sixth day. The Sabbath was God’s gift to the people.
What does this prayer about counting our days and this story about gathering manna six days a week teach us about coping with the constant demands of time? It teaches me to start each day by seeking God’s presence and gifts in the same way that the Israelites sought the manna, their “daily bread,” each morning six days a week. It also teaches us to count our days by putting the Sabbath, for us, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, at the center of our weekly calendar.
There are countless ways to use our time. Psalm 90 teaches us to make the most of time by seeking God day by day each morning and week by week each Sunday. The result of this practice is “that we may gain a wise heart.” A wise heart is one that beats to the rhythm of God’s presence in daily communion and weekly worship.
Psalm 90 looks back to Exodus chapter 16 and the discovery of the daily bread of manna in the wilderness. It also looks forward to the Lord’s Prayer. Psalm 90 describes God as our “eternal home” (v. 1). The Lord’s Prayer describes God as our eternal Father. Psalm 90 prays for God’s mercy. The Lord’s Prayer prays for God’s forgiveness. Psalm 90 prays for God’s wisdom. The Lord’s Prayer prays for God’s will. Psalm 90 prays for God’s daily love. The Lord’s Prayer prays for daily bread, daily guidance, and daily deliverance.
Psalm 90 and the Lord’s Prayer give us one more clue to making the best use of time. Both prayers are prayed using the words “we,” “us,” and “our.” They teach us that we need each other to pray well and live well. I can’t follow this practice of daily and weekly prayer and fellowship with God by myseld. I need a community to help me.
C.S. Lewis pondered why it is that people have so much trouble with time. After all, fish don’t struggle with water and birds don’t struggle in the air, but we struggle mightily to manage our time. He concluded that people have trouble with time because we were not meant to live in time. Instead, we were meant to live in eternity. If this is the case, then what better way to use our time, day by day, week by week, season by season, and year by year, than to focus our attention and energy on our relationship with the eternal God? The Bible calls that having a wise heart.
Whatever ways that the summer season causes you to adjust your schedule, consider how you can arrange your schedule to seek the daily bread that God offers and to count your days from Sunday to Sunday with goal of gaining a heart of wisdom. Counting our days in this way is the best way that we can make our days count!