May 22, 2024
clear glass with red sand grainer

Teach us to number our days

I pray for long life. I pray for health, wealth, productivity, a posh retirement spoiling my great grandchildren…

I almost take it for granted that these things will happen. The part of me that listened to “name it and claim it” sermons and attended life visualisation and manifestation seminars believes I’m gonna have the best life till a ripe old age, travel the world, not a sick day, not a dent in my pocket or heart… green grass, rain showers and rainbows.

But life happens. And we realise this life really doesn’t come with guarantees. We are not guaranteed a long life. We are not guaranteed perfect health. Or problem-free kids. Or a blissful marriage, fruitful careers or even dreams come true.

All these things are bountiful gifts from our Father above.

Sometimes they come. We live to 89, retire in honour, see our great grandchildren, pass on holding those we love with a rich inheritance for them.

Sometimes these things come and go — and break our hearts to a thousand tiny shards in the thick of it, and we don’t know how we will ever get through it and over it. A miscarriage, a child that passes on too soon, lost jobs, ruined reputations, a shattering medical diagnosis, failed marriages, health like a trainwreck, bankruptcy…

Other times they don’t come at all. We keep our eyes on the horizon for that dark tall hunk who will sweep us off our feet but he doesn’t quite yet arrive. We keep watching the pregnancy kit for those two lines but month after month the magic doesn’t appear. We keep thinking this is gonna be our big real/big job, contract, break but then … dissapointments, failure, falling short.

How are we supposed to live this life with all this impermanence and in the midst of so much pain? Even when it’s not with us, for all we know it could be around the bend — in the next phone call or WhatsApp message or doctor visit. How are we supposed to chase after purpose and influence and fulfilling marriages and building wealth for three generations and occupying until Christ comes and whatever other boxes we feel qualify as God’s blessing when our hearts are fainting?

My friend Mary this week offered me perspective: we are not supposed to hold onto this life tightly. Or to these things tightly. We hold them with open hands.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 says something similar. “The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”

It’s not easy to let go of the tight grasp on our things, our kids, our titles, our money, our ambitions… Or the tight grasp these things have on us.

But when our hearts are broken by life, as they will be, we remember this is not home. Pain and suffering have a way of making us let go and fix our eyes on Jesus and our heavenly calling.

So we live like sojourners who can be here today and gone tomorrow. We live like people who are walking each other home. We live like people dwelling in temporary tents but looking forward to a city whose founder and builder is God.

Like Moses writes in Psalm 90, may we realise how fleeting our lives are, that we may live wisely. Like grass we really are flourishing in the morning, withering in the evening. And our world in its present form too is passing away.

So how do our priorities shift? Does what we are doing now have eternal significance? Are we wasting our lives on things that have zero consequence now and in eternity? Do our hearts ache less with loss, disability and disappointment, knowing our hope is not just for this life?

Teach us o Lord to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Kageni Muse

Kageni Muse is a journalist living in Nairobi. She is married to Muse and together they have three children. She is a passionate advocate for children, families and the church and daydreams of a hammock with a view of the hills.

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