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.
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.)
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. @Grace_and_Such
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.