“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
I have done the math, and the number of my days since birth is 21, 328. (It’s easy: go to numbermydays.com and enter your birthday.)
I don’t suggest you take the Psalm literally, but it’s not a bad way to start. It staggered me. The vision of the Psalmist is not so much the days past as the days left, but when you consider just how many days you have squandered, you see the ones remaining as very precious. “Teach us to realize the brevity of life,” reads the New Living Translation, “that we may grow in wisdom.” There’s a clear connection between knowing the number of your days and wisdom. Somehow we have to develop a keen awareness that our life is—as James 4:14 says—“but a vapor.”
That is hard, almost impossible for humans. Our only cry against the swift passing of years is, “More, more!” We want to live longer, even though we have not figured out how to spend the days and years we have already been given. G. K. Chesterton said it wonderfully. “There are people who pray for eternal life and don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday.”
What we need is simply awareness.
I had coffee last week with a man who is literally counting his days. Sixty-three. That was the number of sober days. Sixty-three and counting.
In October I went to a meditation class and the teacher told us to breathe and simply count our breaths. Really? I thought. I’m just supposed to sit here and count my breaths? Yes. It is that simple.
Most of us need help in the day-numbering business. We need some daily ritual that brings us into awareness. Every day. Today I am simply gazing at the sun on snow as if I had never seen this magnificent sight, and might never again. And I am thinking, Tomorrow is day number 21,329.