Week of April 10, 2013

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

If there is a more timely and timeless word in the Bible, a more important message for us to heed than Psalm 90:12 offers, I would be hard pressed to find it. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” The Psalmist says that “The days of our years are three score and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is there strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” The Psalmist was reflecting upon the fleeting nature of life itself. The unpredictability of life is something no one who is at all thinking can deny. On Easter day I read once again the blessed list of names of those who have died within our church family during the last year. Some of them died having lived a long life. Others, from my perspective, left this world too soon. “We know not what a day may bring forth, but only that the hour for serving You is always at hand,” says the old prayer of the Church.

I often think of Fyodor Dostoyevski’s central character, a prince named Myshkin, whose acquaintance stands under a death sentence in one of his incomparable novels. Myshkin dwells on the experience of this man who was led out of his prison cell to a scaffold where he is to be shot. Then at the last moment, in Dostoyevski’s tale, the sentence is commuted. During what he imagined to be the last minutes of his life, he kept thinking, “What if I were not to die! What if I could go back to life — what an eternity! And it all would be mine! I would turn every minute into a whole age; I would not let anything be lost. I would count every minute as it passed, I would not waste one.”

Life is a precious treasure to us no less than to Myshkin’s unfortunate friend. This is precisely because our days are given — and numbered — by God, and our whole life is held in the Lord’s benevolent hands from day to day. So to ask God to “teach us to number our days” is to ask the Lord to show us how to live life according to His intentions. John Calvin’s dedication to live life this way was captured in a well-known pictorial symbol. An extended hand is holding a human heart, and along with it is this Latin inscription: Cor Meum Tibi Offero Domine Prompte et Sincere — “I offer my heart to Thee, Lord, promptly and sincerely.” That is the fitting response of every man or woman who has been given by God a heart of wisdom. A wise heart is one that is aflame with daily devotion to Christ. A wise heart is a humble heart that resolves to live faithfully every day that is given by God to live. Coupled with Calvin’s symbol was his lifelong motto: “Seize the day before the face of God.” No other rule of life expresses any more aptly the wisdom of a heart that loves God. We learn to number our days aright by making every day count.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once remarked, “We ask for long life, but ’tis deep life or grand moments that signify. Let the measure of time be spiritual, not mechanical.” What matters most is not how long or how comfortable our life has been, but whether we have found the wisdom to live every day as if it could be our last. Teach us to number our days!

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

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