In the hardware store, a clerk asked, “Can I help you find anything?” “How about my misspent youth,” joked my husband. The clerk shot back, “We keep that in the back, between world peace and winning lottery tickets.”
When we talk about time we have a variety of reactions. For example, someone here who isn’t as interested in what I’m saying might be concerned about how long this sermon will last. Someone else may take this to be one of the more important twenty minutes or so of the week, and enjoy it.
We understand time more easily in its larger dimensions, such as years or decades, when significant periods have gone by. Photos help us to see how we have changed or how our children have changed.
We’re also pretty good at seeing how time works in terms of months or weeks. This is Sunday, again. January is here and then comes February, and so on. We’ve got the hang of this month by month rotation.
Scripture asks us to look at our time in terms of a day at a time, leading us to believe there’s room for improvement. This is why the Bible teaches in several places what James 4:13-14 says, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.”
Proverbs 27:1 admonishes in a similar way, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring,” meaning we aren’t always in control of what happens to us.
Our Psalm 90 reading this morning takes a little different view when we heard: “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” We need to understand the limit of the time we have to comprehend the worth of the time we’re given.
Find a way to value your days. Don’t take them for granted. They’re gifts from God that need to be seen in all their glory.
Perhaps you know someone who never thinks about counting such a thing. Such worries seem silly because the person thinks, “What will happen will happen. What will come will come.”
But there’s spiritual wisdom here that should be accepted because life slips by so quickly. We think we have more to come and then one day we realize we’ve less to come. We didn’t count the days and we let slip by so
many. More than this, we might not make of ours lives what we wanted to make.
What we do with time is what we make of our lives. Count your days so you can count your life a success.
Of course, scripture tells us that humans make plans but God directs steps. We shouldn’t misunderstand this. It doesn’t mean we don’t take responsibility for our path. The Lord wants us to count our days, plans our lives according to God’s will, and then let God direct us to gain the best result.
Often, we aren’t even aware our lives aren’t taking the shape we’d hoped. It’s easy to settle for a job or a relationship, rather than make decisions that create the person you’d like to become. We don’t count the day but let them go, hoping some time in the future will come and we will start this wiser policy.
This isn’t how God asks us to see our time. Be more proactive. Take greater advantage of a minute than you have before. As we know, time flies, and sometimes not so well. Nearing middle age, a man named John Jerryson explained how he wasted his life and become a stranger to himself. He wrote, “It seemed only yesterday when I was sure I was going to change the world. I had two dreams. The first, was writing a utopic/dystopic book. I was 70 pages through when I was 20. I am still 70 pages in, at 46. The second, was travelling the world and helping the poor and homeless. By 20, I had backpacked around New Zealand and the Philippines. I planned to do all of Asia, then Europe, then America (I live in Australia by the way). To date, I have only been to New Zealand and the Philippines.
Now, we get to where it all went wrong. I was 20. I needed to be stable. I needed to take that graduate job, which would dictate my whole life. To devote my entire life in a 9-7 job. What was I thinking? After coming home, I would eat dinner, prepare my work for the following day, and sleep at 10pm, to wake up at 6am the following day.
Yesterday, my wife admitted to cheating on me for the last 10 years. 10 years. That seems like a long time, but I can’t comprehend it. What have I been doing in the last 10 years? Outside of work, I really can’t say anything. Not being a proper husband. Not being ME.
Who am I? What happened to me? I didn’t even ask for a divorce, or yell at her, or cry. I felt NOTHING. Now I can feel a tear as I write this. But
not because my wife has been cheating on me, but because I am now realizing I have been dying inside. My son feels nothing for me.
What happened to that fun-loving, risk-taking, energetic person that was me, hungering to change the world?
My father passed away ten years ago. I remember getting calls from mom, telling me he was getting sicker and sicker. I was getting busier and busier, on the verge of a big promotion. I kept putting my visit off, hoping in my mind he would hold on. He died, and I got my promotion. I haven’t seen him in 15 years. WHAT WAS I THINKING?
Please, do something with your life…. DO NOT settle down at 20. DO NOT forget your friends, your family. Yourself.”
Those of us who are beyond 46 years old, know his life isn’t over. He needs to let the Lord step in to give him more courage and trust. But he’s not alone in this struggle. It’s something we all deal with.
The truth is what we can’t do today, won’t necessarily be easier to do tomorrow or a year from now.
It’s been said to realize the value of one year, ask a student who failed his final exam. To realize the value of one month, ask the parent of a premature baby. To realize the value of one week, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper. To realize the value of one day, ask a daily wage laborer who has a large family to feed. To realize the value of one hour, ask lovers who are waiting to meet. To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who has missed the train, the bus, or a plane. To realize the value of one second, ask a person who has survived an accident. To realize the value of one tenth of a second, ask the person who won silver at the Olympics.
I want to give you a second understanding of the verse: “So teach us to count our day that we may gain a wise heart.” Not only should we count our days to learn they are limited, but we count them so we can learn to figure them out, to manage them, to understand time. We can be proactive when it comes to time. We aren’t powerless over time, over the present.
Time is a spiritual battle. We need to have victories in our spiritual battle with time.
What we do with it, how we view it, what we let it do to us makes a real impact in our hearts and souls, and in the people around us. What I mean is when we’re under pressure because we’re getting compressed by demands and schedules and time and people, all it takes is a moment to think the wrong thought, say the wrong word, do the wrong thing. And when we really
blow it, that moment could reverberate throughout a lifetime. The wrong we do can’t always be wiped away.
Too often such things happen because we don’t make the right moment of the right time.
You honk the horn when the traffic light turns green even though two tenths of a second isn’t going to make a hill of beans difference; or you bark at someone because he or she is disrupting your schedule, even though later upon reflection you see the other person wasn’t a disruption at all; you find yourself spending lots of time not doing what in moments of clarity and planning is important to you.
Time is a spiritual entity in our lives. We need to manage our internal clock.
Perhaps something is thinking this doesn’t sound easy. It may be true. But it’s not impossible. I’ve found counting my days and managing my sense of time is crucial. I don’t think I would be able to love my children and keep my sanity at the same time if I didn’t.
If I told you the schedule of activities and driving to get Linnea, Lucas, and Elise to their activities you would think we made it up. Not only do folks think it’s made up, but when they do come to believe it, they think it’s crazy or too much—which at times it can be.
But this is what I do when I reach that tipping point. I remind myself of how long this will continue. I look at the time we have to continue this, and I see how short it will be when compared to the time after we’re done with this schedule.
I also put myself into the future when this is all over and our children are grown up and I will look back at this time as past and be glad I did it. And you know what else: I tell myself, someday I will wish for just one day more for our kids to be this age and to be able to spend so much time with them in the car or at their activities or trying to keep track of who’s doing what, where and when. I will pine for a day, for an hour, for a minute of these times.
I gain a time perspective that helps me value what I want to value and keep track of what’s important to me these years, months, weeks, days, minutes, and even moments.
We need to be able to figure out a spiritual sense of time. Get better at getting time right. Understand the power of living moment to moment. Let
God give you patience. Seek after calmness. Pray for the Lord to help you make the most of the time you have.
I ask you to relish today, make plans to improve this week, do something courageous this month.
Make sure you look positively on the past. Be more present with others. Trust that the Lord is delivering a tomorrow full of potential.
Can the church say Amen?