Richard L. Floyd
"So teach us to count our days, that we gain a wise heart." - Psalm 90:12
I was twenty-six when I was ordained and called to two small congregations in two small rural Maine towns nine miles apart. I grew a beard to look older and wiser than I was. I'm pretty sure it didn't fool anybody.
Sometime in my forties the beard started to turn gray, and I shaved it off because it made me look older than my years. How often have we wanted to be older or younger than we are, rather than just living out our lives from day to day? My mother had a lovely phrase she employed; she would say that someone was "aging gracefully."
I think aging gracefully is a worthy goal. When I was young I thought I had all the time in the world, even time to waste. Now that I am not so young I understand that a day is a precious gift.
Psalm 90 is a reflection on the transience and brevity of life, our mortality in the face of God's eternity. In Isaac Watts' famous hymn based on the psalm he captures this beautifully in this verse:
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
The fact is we only get so many days. In the face of this reality the psalmist prays to God: "Teach us to count our days, that we may gain a wise heart."
How do we use our days wisely? How do we make our days count? What habits of the stewardship of time can we put into place that might lead people to say at the end of our days: "Her life was well-lived." Or perhaps just, "He aged gracefully."
O God, before whose face the generations rise and fall, teach us to count our days, that we may gain a wise heart. Amen.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.