“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Though some of you (read: my mother) were waiting with great anticipation for a blog post last Wednesday, the silence was well-spent with my four favourite people in the world. It was good for this structured woman to read a whole book (gasp!), serve beach-side snacks late in the afternoon (even if it meant we ate dinner at 8:00) and impress my daughters with just how long their old mother can stay on a tube while being violently whipped around the lake with a speed and intensity my chiropractor would never approve of.
During a week of serene sunrises, I spent some early morning hours doing a life analysis. I had turned 40 in July but hadn’t taken the time yet to do some of the usual contemplations I enjoy on big birthdays. I have loved my decade birthdays. Twenty because it ushered me into married life. Thirty because I had seen so much growth in my life since twenty that it left me deeply thankful to the faithful God who changes surrendered hearts.
And 40? Well I’ve loved forty, but not for its delight – I am looking visibly older and I’m more humbled than ever by my shortcomings. But I’ve loved it for its value. Unless we want to delay it by a shopping spree and some Botox, “forty” requires an important accounting if we dare to be honest about our mortality. The truth is, if the Lord keeps me here until I’m 80 which may not even be the case, I’m half-way through my life.
Half spent. Half left… at best.
As with any resource, the less there is of it, the more carefully it ought to be managed. It’s a hard pill to swallow friend, but a good one because counting our days drives us towards wisdom. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
I’m not writing on Proverbs today because that would have required me to study and write on vacation or as the kids were getting ready for their first day of school. That would have made me no fun at all to my family. So I didn’t. But in the spirit of the wisdom pursuit this blog is committed to, I thought I’d share with you some resolutions that have come out of my fortieth year “day-numbering” exercise. This post will be a bit more personal – kinda like letting you read a page out of the journal I’ve never been patient enough to keep.
For the remaining years God grants me on this earth:
I resolve to view my children through no one’s eyes but God’s & my own. That’s not to suggest that I would not receive wise counsel on things that could benefit my children. That would be silly. What I mean is that we are all in danger of parenting our children by the opinions of others and that never produces good results. It makes us critical, condemning, legalistic and short-sighted parents.
Instead, remembering that I have been hand-picked by God to cooperate with Him in sculpting three masterpieces to His specifications, I don’t want to reactively chip & chisel at my kids just because someone might slap a grade on this half finished work. And so I commit anew that in the remaining years that my girls live under my roof, they will live each day under a loving, forgiving, gracious gaze.
I resolve to shift my aim from what I can accomplish in this life to what I can enable others to accomplish. Based on how rapidly the last 40 years went, in very short order I’m going to be that socially-invisible, white-haired lady sitting in the restaurant booth sporting non-descript clothing, sensibly comfortable shoes and a face that make-up stopped helping long ago.
If I throw all my energy into building my life resume, the return on that investment will take a down turn faster than my bust line. But if I give myself to enable the next generation of Christian women to be wise influencers and winsome pictures of Christ to this world, then my efforts don’t end with my last breath. How great is that?
I now choose to throw my heart & effort into the option that will produce decades & generations of influence instead of a collection of accomplishments that will fade with my memory.
I resolve to invest more time being with Christ and like Christ than doing for Christ. Don’t panic. I’m not going to stop doing the things I love to do out of gratitude for what Christ has done for me and in response to my place within His grand purposes. But historically, it’s been too common for me to do versus be, or be with. I see the same tendency in my relationship with my children. I love them and therefore want to serve them. But I can spend most of my time doing for them, instead of being with them if I’m not careful. Productive? Yes. Sweet & life-giving? No. Large potential for regret? Yes.
So going forward, I may do a little less for Jesus. But it’s because I’m going to carve out time to be with Jesus. I’m going to spend eternity with Him, so I don’t want to show up and greet him cordially like a boss I’ve dutifully served. He is so much more than that to me and I resolve to savour Him accordingly. That may mean less quantifiable accomplishments, but hopefully I’ll think, talk and act more like Him instead which I think you’d agree is better for all of us.
I resolve to mean much to few, instead of meaning little to many. This is an especially hard thing for two reasons. Complicating factor #1: Unlike past generations whose scope of influence was limited to their geographic particulars, we live with the potential of global reach. We can measure influence by shares, likes & followers. This throws into stark contrast what is possible and what is actual and breeds an easy sense of failure by those standards. Complicating factor #2: I am an aspiring children’s author who would love to find a wealthy, well-connected publisher who will help me get my precious manuscripts to the world. In order for that to ever happen, every agent, editor & publisher has preached to me the nasty necessities of “bigger platform”, “clout” and “more subscribers”.
The pursuit of these things could have consumed me, as it does many, if I didn’t find it all so unfortunate and repugnant. Here’s what I’ve come to see: Even if anything I do or say would reach a far distance and I could boast “platform” numbers that would impress any publisher, I’d still only ever mean a tiny bit to any one reader. One voice in a sea of millions. However, the delicious flip-side of this “global insignificance” is that to a handful of people, there is no one in the world like me. I don’t want to spend my precious days and years to mean a tiny bit to lots of people I don’t know, where my impact would be fleeting at best.
I resolve to spend this precious resource of time to ensure that I mean very much to a few select dear ones. I choose to rest knowing that faithfulness to my primary roles (wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, church family member) is my responsibility. The scope of my ministry is God’s concern and that’s where I will leave it.