Friday, June 24, 2016


My 91st birthday has come with gusto and gone with the rest of my birthdays.

A large stack of birthday greeting cards with personal notes filled my real-time rural mailbox and also my email inbox with digital/audio greetings and singing and phone calls. My doorbell rang with deliveries of several lovely bouquets. I greatly appreciated everyone's thoughtfulness. Then it was out to lunch with family and the evening was topped off going to the movies with a son and grandson—“Finding Dori”—if you'd like to know.

Among the gifts I received is the creatively personalized mug pictured here from a special friend. The inscription on the mug declares “33,237 days old” calculating my current age. It reminds me of the verse, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). Translations of that verse vary somewhat. The word “number” is sometimes translated “count” our days. The mug inscription then ends with the question, “But who's counting?”

I knew there must be some gold to mine if I tried to unpack the answer to that question more carefully and biblically. I explored who was supposed to do the counting and the context. “Teach us.” Who is the Psalmist (this happens to be a Psalm by Moses) addressing? The entire Psalm is a prayer to God. Apparently we have to learn to do this numbering or counting carefully and with knowledge if we want a wise heart. But we don't appear to have all the information. We don't know the number of our days, so how can we know if “our number is up”? The number is known only to God—and He has decided that it is better for us not to know. Jesus did let us know our limits: by being anxious, we can't add even another day to our life span. It's out of our control. The exact number is already settled. We can't “count on” many days, many years. In fact, we can't count on having any tomorrow. (James 4:13-15)

The result of knowing how to count right is so that we will be wise in how we spend our lives in view of the “brevity of life” and in order to “appreciate the shortness of our days,” according to some translations. James 4:14 poses the question, "What is your life? You are a mist (vapor) that appears for a little while and then vanishes." If I need another reminder, Isaiah 40:6 and 7 declares, "All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it. Surely the people are grass." First Peter 1:24 echoes the grass metaphor. When we finally arrive in Heaven, we will most likely be surprised by many things, but nothing will amaze us more than how short life on earth really was.

When I was young, I mistakenly viewed my days as stretching endlessly. They seemed almost infinite and so, I reasoned, there wasn't any need to number them or to think about them ending. Many of them seemed trivial, mundane, ordinary, and meaningless. But now, as the days, months, and years have come and gone, I have begun to gain in wisdom and to lean harder on God to teach me the value of each day, to consider each day separate from the next, distinct in its purpose, unique and significant in the way I should live it.

So when I awaken in the morning, am I supposed to literally ask the Lord, “What 'number' is today?” I don't think so. I already know the date on the calendar. God has a different vantage point. He said that each day, this very day, is like a thousand years in His eternal perspective. I can't seem to get my mind around that mysterious concept. I do understand this basic truth: if I am “in Christ” my days will never end for my eternal, God-given spirit even if I put a dozen zeros after the current 33,237,000,000,000,000!

Could this verse imply that God is counting my days too? That He looks at my encounters with the people I meet, the emails I write, the conversations I have, the prayers I pray, the deeds I do? Each of my days counts with Him then! Lord, does it mean that You have recorded this very day of mine into Your Book of Life and given it a number? And that I shall be accountable for what I have done with it? Please teach me to spend it or invest it wisely for Your glory.

My friend's porcelain gift mug can speak! What does it say? It tells me that I should count, that God counts, that each of the past 33,237 days in the past counted, and that each of my remaining days counts. Each day comes to me from God's loving, generous heart. I can count on the Lord to be always available to instruct me how I should live with a wise heart to present back to Him.

My life is God's gift to me. What I do with the days of my life is my gift to God.

1 comment:

Jennifer Botkin Phillips said...

I loved your column. It's very clever but also gets us thinking about our numbered days and how we spend them here on earth. It reminds me that I can do nothing about the counted out days here on earth that God has for me. It's all in his hands. And that in the meantime of waiting to be called home, I can seek what God would have me do with the number of days that I've left to live on this earth. My hope is that my life will have counted for something for the Kingdom of God and that, when my time does come to leave this earth, that I will have accomplished my purpose in living at all. Thank you for a well thought-out and thought provoking column. I love your title, "Who's Counting?"