ColumnsNaming Grace

Number our days

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Days shortening. Skies darkening. Time slipping. Like sand through the hourglass. How to spend our days? What to do with our short time on earth — whether we’re 1 or 91? We pray. We plead. We petition for wisdom: how then shall we live? The psalmist advises, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” Viewing our days in light of eternity grants us the proper perspective on life, leading to ­wisdom.

Time runs through our fingers often unnoticed, sweeping by like a whirlwind. We try to capture time, even halt it, as a hand braced against a speeding train. But time marches on. C. S. Lewis describes time: “It looks like a river of Nows. Unbounded. Broken Free.” In numbering our days, we gain the wisdom to use our time well. We dare not waste a day — not even one moment. As author Ann Voskamp writes in “The Broken Way, a Daring Path to the Abundant Life,” “You have only one decision every day: how will you use your time?”

A friend, under the gun with work and a million other demands, reflected: “I’ve been viewing time as an enemy when I need to appreciate it as a gift.” Time is God’s gift to us: we were born at a prescribed time, will die at an unknown time, and must learn, through wisdom, how to best number the in-between time. According to Voskamp, if we use time like Christ, we discover, “Time isn’t something you seize; it’s something you sacrifice. It’s not something to grab; it’s something to give.”

It takes wisdom to direct our time to Jesus Christ and to seek first the kingdom of God. We glean wisdom from praying with Scripture, which is “living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.” Scripture teaches us not to fritter time on the trite or trivial, but to number our days … as our days are numbered. How many more days to tuck an elderly parent into bed, giggle with a toddler, hold hands with a spouse, listen to a troubled neighbor, feed a homeless man, or catch a twirling red leaf? Only God knows.

The rich man in this Sunday’s Gospel, though having kept all the commandments, walks away sad, unable to release the steel-like grip on his wealth. Sad. Sad is how I feel when I fall into bed having squandered my day. The words of Scripture cut into my conscience. “Number our days,” eerily convicts my heart.

The years with children are short. With but a few blinks, children are grown and gone. Parents/grandparents name grace — God’s saving presence — by spending cherished time with their children. They name grace by sharing Scripture, appreciating beauty, serving the poor, and praying and playing together. Parents lead their children to wisdom by expressing gratitude for the sheer gift of another day.

Holy time is never measured in dollars, but by the expenditure of our lives through love, service and sacrifice. Voskamp ponders: “Maybe temporary time is made for dying to self — so your eternal self can real­ly live.” The rich man asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” We each ask: “Can I be saved? Have I lived well?” The truth is our days are numbered and none of us is worthy without the timeless love of God, through whom, “all things are possible.” Now, that’s good news.

How will you be more intentional in spending your time?

What will you teach your grand/children about time?

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding parents in their vital task as “first preachers” of the good news in the domestic church — the church of the home.