"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12
In high school I traveled to Japan as part of an exchange program. On the trip, our group visited a pottery studio in a small mountain village. As we watched one of the artisans work, he spoke to us through a translator.
"I have lived 25,000 days," he began. "I have maybe 5000 more. You have lived 5000 days. You have maybe 25,000 more."
His words raised intense and contradictory emotions in my teenage heart. First a feeling of incredible possibility. Then a reminder of my eventual end. Having my life summed to a round number naturally brought to mind the final 0 of death. Yet, when considered individually, each day seemed limitless.
I wonder if the heart of wisdom the psalmist speaks of is the one capable of holding that paradox.
Tonight we cross off the first day of the last month of a dying year. Our unfulfilled hopes for 2016 will likely remain unfulfilled. And we have traveled another 365 days toward our ends.
But many of us will also mark the day on another calendar, opening a tiny window to reveal a cozy scene or a piece of chocolate. The numbered days of Advent remind us not of death, but of the promise of new life born again each year and every day.
Both are true. Each day is birth and death, end and new beginning. We count them and remember their precious scarcity. We count them and remember that each holds the possibility of new and limitless life.
Love Incarnate, your presence in each new day makes it count. Teach us to spend it wisely.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.