Losing Light {and Counting the Days}

Like the old black-and-white cowboys, I watch the sky to see how much daylight I have left. Through my patio doors, the sun smears its final desperate rays across the darkening canvas of sky.

Sarah E Image

I’m losing light, I think, hurrying to get as far as possible through the tasks on my sticky-note to-do list: edit that urgent article for work, write a new blog post, hang the decorations in my bathroom, start on a new hand-lettering project, pay the bills . . .

After work, I only have about two good hours to get stuff done. Once the sun goes down, I know it’s time to hop in the shower, prepare my outfit for the next day, and climb in bed to read a few pages until I fall asleep. There’s just never enough time to get everything done.

Author Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Sometimes I get scared about how I’m spending my days, so caught up in the tasks on a sticky note that I forget my mission for eternity. What things, I wonder, am I meant to do besides stick to the schedule?

I turned 30 last year and suddenly realized I’m only 20 years from 50. Life feels a bit like those mornings when you jerk awake, sure that you’ve overslept your alarm, only to grab your clock and find that you have an hour left to sleep or an extra hour to get up and get something done. This business of being in my thirties feels like a crisis, until I compare it to the average American lifespan of 78 years and realize that (if all goes well) my alarm is far from going off.

Too frequently, however, I count my hours instead of number my days. This struggle is a common one—at least between me and Moses who said, “We finish our years like a sigh. . . . So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalms 90:9 NKJV,12 KJV). Humans do not come automatically wired to make the most of their days. But the wise ones stop to measure their days against eternity and make it their daily objective to develop wisdom. (By the way, what is wisdom? Proverbs 9:10 defines it as the fear of the Lord.)

How quickly the days go—how soon the light ends! What if I come to the close of my life and have nothing but a few thousand well-kept days stacked like a precarious Jenga tower to show for it. What if I never revolted against the social status quo, crusaded against injustice, made strides for truth, forged pages of eloquent prose—what if I “forked no lightning” (to quote Dylan Thomas from his famous villanelle “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”). In the smallness of my life, I am overwhelmed at the expectations of all I must do in the years ahead so that I won’t review my life with regret.

But God asks so little of me: to fear Him and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Jesus reiterates the simplicity of the Father’s requirements: love God and love others. And though much detail goes into those simple parameters, God’s expectations for us are not quite as extravagant as those we set for ourselves. Perhaps it’s our pride and insecurity that trip the alarm in our minds, the siren that wails, “More is better, but you’ll never be enough.”

I often comfort myself, not by looking to those more famous or wealthy than me, but by looking to those with little notoriety and minimal means: the millions of people the world over whose greatest achievement is living a good life—loving God and loving others. The parents, without even a college education, who raise good children; the workers who give their all to a corporation that hardly gives back to them; the pastors who lead dishearteningly small churches—those who have learned what Moses learned: “Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalms 90:14).

Perhaps all I can do for now is to feed my stale bread to the geese in the pond down the hill, correct as many grammar errors as possible, write a note of encouragement to a coworker, buy a pack of diapers for the crisis pregnancy center, practice my writing faithfully, watch for opportunities to take the next step, and love God and others—to work with the light that I’ve been given.

With apologies to Dylan Thomas, I don’t know about raging against the dying of the light, but maybe there’s no reason to panic. Maybe, tonight, I should pull the blind and call it a day.

Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Sarah Eshleman
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  1. Jen on February 10, 2017 at 8:51 AM

    Boy did this post speak to me, Sarah! I’m an hour-counter, too. (I’m 51 and 30 sounds so young and long ago.)

  2. Gretchen on February 10, 2017 at 9:32 AM

    What a beautiful post, Sarah. You make me think back to when I was two weeks from turning 30. That was the day my mom died–18 years ago this month. She was only six years older than I am now. I remember stopping and thinking,”What if I only had 24 more years to live my life(as she was 24 years older than me) How would I do it?” I wasn’t really a Jesus follower back then. I mean, I believed in God, but wasn’t a committed follower of Jesus. I think it’s such a fine line between the urgency we have to live well and the straightforward command to love God and love others while under his yoke which is easy and light.

    I can tell you this you have a lot more figured out before you’re 30 then I did. 🙂 Good thing being a work in progress is OK with God. I love your words.

  3. Diane Karchner on February 10, 2017 at 11:42 AM

    It’s really all in the numbering of our days, as Moses said, right? But living in the moment has so much to offer us, and that seems to be where you have arrived. The post-it note, the wanting to get more done, the desire to do more for others, lives in our present moment and we need to grasp it there in prayer – so that it is not wasted when our memory moves on. Thanks for this insight – I agree with Gretchen – you certainly have a bunch of stuff figured out at a younger age than I. Also, love the KJV of the Psalm – life is but a ‘sigh’ – in the NIV – it is a moan. I like to think I am sighing contentedly through my life rather than moaning my existence!! Thanks, Sarah – good thoughts!

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