“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.
Well I’m 5 years closer to 80 than you are – thanks again for reminding me that I’ve likely lived half of my life on earth 😨. But seriously, thanks for the reminder that life is short and we need to prioritize how we spend it. Hard to believe we are talking about building into the lives of the next generation already.
Great to have you back, Janet. Thanks for being faithful in sharing the words God has given you. You never know where He may take them, just keep putting them out there.
Thank you for the encouragement Mary Beth!
You are lovely, Janet. I’ve only known you a little over one of those forty years, but I sure look forward to getting to know you more over the next 40. 🙂
Likewise, sweet Mrs. Hall. I found myself wishing I could come help you paint and get settled in your new farm life. I’ll settle for enjoying some meals with you at a writer’s conference if we can make that work this next year. 🙂 Let me know when you get some firm plans.
Your words are always so wise and eloquen so ften arTiculating well what I am thinking. Thank you for sharing your self with us as we journey with you. You have been a huge part of my spiritual shaping and continue to have impact even through distance and gaps in time…. and I am impacting others and they are as well. .. and so legacy is built and spent one day at a time.
Wonderful encouragement Mrs. Schrader! What a better plan, to see each other raised up to do the work than to try and do it all on our own. I appreciate the reminder of that dynamic. You remain an inspiration to me.
My heart spoke a resounding yes to so many of your “40” contemplations as I stare down that new decade. Your words never fail to encourage, instruct & inspire. In fact your series prompted me to buy Living the Proverbs so I can dig deeper each day. Keep it up—I love hearing from you!! ❤️
Thanks Julie! It’s a pleasure to write and a delight to know that it can spur on my sisters in Christ. I appreciate your encouragement. So glad you’re digging into Proverbs – I’m sure you are a huge blessing to the women in your sphere of influence. And glad I’m not the only one living the reality of four decades! 🙂 Is that next year for you?
Wisdom indeed. I’m ahead of you in years, so unfortunately I can’t wait for you to join me at 50, but God willing, I will still be able watch Him unfold His wisdom through you when you get there!
Thanks Heather – you can’t be that far ahead! Boy, with all I’ve learned in this last decade, I better be glowing with wisdom by the time I’m 50. I sure hope so anyways – it makes the aging process more tolerable. Thanks for journeying together. 🙂
Janet, I’m still catching up on your blog, and how fun it is to be able to do that! I loved this post. I love how intentionally you live your life. I’m only a few years behind you, and I hope I will be saying similar things when I hit that milestone, too.