February 17, 2004

14,583 and Counting

For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh.

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Sometimes the days of our lives are not even half of seventy years. All the more reason to number our days.

This passage is from what was already my favourite Psalm (numbered 89 to the Orthodox readers, 90 to the Catholics and Protestants). I had looked at it as though my life was half over, if not when I turned 35, then next month when I reach 40. In terms of half a life, I have looked back with discouragement at how little I have accomplished. Or in the words of this Psalmist, Moses, the Lord has not established the work of my hands - no doubt due to my own failure to submit to that establishment.

When I look at it as another half-life of opportunity, the future is bright. When I realise that a half-life can instantly become a whole life, things dim just a bit. If I had to cash in my chips now, I'm afraid the house would be the big winner. Or to use a more Biblical reference, I have managed to parlay my ten talents into two.

The short whole-life prospect that came into focus with my brother's death was amplified by the requirement to journey to Texas and back in a large metal tube hurtling through the air, at times in excess of 600 miles per hour. I didn't really like flying before 9/11. I really don't after. It's scary enough worrying about the quality of aircraft construction and maintenance, without factoring in the machinations of Muslims with theological uses for plastique and visions of 70 (or 72) virgins (or white raisins, depending on your translation of the Qu'ran). I spend take off and landing praying the Trisagion prayers (with a heavy dose of extra Jesus Prayers). Zipping along at 39,000 feet I may be 7.4 miles closer to heaven, but I'd rather not use it as a shortcut.

My brother may have gone much sooner than most people in the developed world, but he went the way I would like to go. He went to sleep in this life and woke up in the next. I just hope I have seen my children's children's children first. Or at least my children's children.

Children's children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.

However you measure it, life is short. My days have numbered 14,583 so far. I hope the number a few more - days I have left in which I make a difference.

Posted by david at February 17, 2004 10:53 PM | TrackBack

My dad likes to count backward...At his 53rd birthday, he said he said, "I'm 17 now."

He says he will be very unhappy with God if he lives past his "0" birthday.

Posted by: Karl Thienes at February 18, 2004 07:47 AM