Teach Me to Realize the Brevity of Life
I met with our Monday night small group. This group has been a blessing to me in two ways: they help keep my eyes off of my own situations and on theirs, and they encourage me by their faith. In this group are men in their very early twenties to genuine senior citizens. It’s a testament that God is relevant to all ages, and that the Gospel resonates to everyone. When the Gospel takes center stage, it doesn’t matter what age, what gender, what economic condition, or whatever separation, Christ will be glorified and the believers edified. It also takes the pressure of me to be a perfect leader. I’m far from a perfect individual much less a good leader. So I point them to Jesus. I’d like to share with you what I shared with them earlier, starting with this question: “If you could choose how the people you truly love will remember you, what would you choose to be remembered by?” Think about it. There is an End and Ends Within The first answers were more like what you would expect from anyone who wants to be remembered, including an honorable state funeral. But I clarified the question, I said, “The people you truly love. How will they remember you? Not how people in general will remember you, but your parents, your spouses or girlfriends, your kids, your grand kids even. The people you say you love, how do you want them to remember you? The discussion became a lot more sombre from then on. A sober reminder for everyone came upon all of us. There is an end, and within this end, are many ends, that hopefully were necessary to end (as the famous book Necessary Endings talks about). And interestingly we distilled that the most important thing we would want our loved ones to remember is simply this: that we truly loved them. Interesting. This was a wonderful setup for our verse of the day, Psalm 90:12, Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. I like how beautifully that was put. Teach us to realize the brevity… Brevity. Meaning short or brief. Here David was saying, teach me to realize that life is short, because when we realize how temporary this all is, how limited time we really have, it makes us consider what is truly valuable. And if what is truly valuable is for our loved ones to know we love them, what are we doing in our brief lives to make sure that is true when our own end comes? Our parents won’t always be alive. Our children won’t always be young. Our friends come and go. Our associates, even more temporary. And every life that interacts with our’s is affected in small ways, in big ways, for good, for evil, and in that span of time we have with each other, we either planted a garden of roses to bless others lifelong, or a garden of regret that leaves scars to be weeded. Will these people know when I’m gone that I loved them? At the end of my life, would God know I loved Him? Or will He know I was just using Him? If we say we love someone, is the result of our life touching their’s lead to beauty? Or is the result of our life touching their’s lead to a cage? In which case we can say, that maybe we did love others, but not as much as ourselves, and we can’t say we truly loved someone if we weren’t willing to lay ourselves down for them. Every day our time with others runs out. Our death comes closer automatically. Their deaths too. We don’t need to try. We don’t have control. What we do control are our decisions within the time that we have. Depending on our decisions will those we love remember us as someone who loved them or someone who used them. There is an end. And there are ends within that end. This leads me to my next point. Prune Towards Your Desired End The book Necessary Endings talks about pruning the things in your life that keep you from flourishing. No one likes pruning. Least of all me. I like to hold on to things tightly. But I’ve had to prune and I’ve seen how resources being sucked out of me have now been reallocated to helping more people at less detriment to myself. Pruning is an important part of life. Every gardener knows this is necessary if we are to achieve our desired end. One cannot go through life accidentally and feel like a winner. We are a product of our life’s choices. For the Christian, it’s not enough to just prune. We need to prune towards a specific desired end, and that is a flourishing life that honors God That’s one huge mistake I must admit I made for most of my life. Even as I pruned and introduced discipline into my life, I was not pruning towards a life that honors God. I was pruning towards a life that honors David. And God won’t bless a life that takes His honor, the honor He alone deserves. I have had this picture in my head of what’s right for me – and I did not once think if that picture was a God-honoring picture. It was a flourishing rose bush alright but its fragrance was for my respectability, my security, my glory. That is subtle pride but it is still pride. To think that I can plan my life without considering the honor of God. This is obvious in my decisions. I live a vain life that is not aware of whether I am honoring God yet I feel entitled and justified, so I have expectations of success, blessing, and peace, even as I am fooled by my own vanity to believing promises of liars. We are never fooled by something we don’t want & someone we don’t trust. We are always fooled by something we desire & someone we trust. The best way to fool someone is to offer him something he already really wants. In other words, we are also responsible for fooling ourselves by desiring and trusting the wrong things. I’ve been a fool myself. At times I find, prayer doesn’t undo the consequences of my foolish decisions. It reassures me that God is with me as I learn my lesson, but the lesson stays, sometimes painfully stays. But if I continue to desire & trust the wrong things then I have not truly learned. I cannot do new versions of old sins and find rest. To live a life that does not honor God, even a good life, is a life that takes His honor from Him. How can I say I love Him while taking the credit for myself even as I know that everything I am today is by His hand? I need to prune towards a new desired end, an end that honors God. Where is God? One of the things I’ve learned is to look for God when I read the Bible. For most of my life I looked for me. I looked for how I could be more like David, or Daniel, or Paul. I forgot to look for the hero. I forgot to look for God. So now I’m changing my approach, and I look for God in each verse. Where is God in Psalm 90:12? He is the Teacher David is requesting to learn from. David is saying, “You teach me how to live this life wisely.” My dad explained before, that teachers back then were not like the ones we have in classrooms today. Teachers back then were people whose life you followed. The way they taught their students was by living and sharing life with them. David here says, “Spend time with me that I may learn that life is brief and temporary and learn to value the right things.” Everyone will be remembered. We will be remembered by what we value. Not everyone will be remembered beautifully. Like I said in my 2012 year end post, The loss of a man (or woman) who has lived a beautiful life will be beautifully remembered. Though sad, his memory will bring up gratitude. It’s the opposite for those who live selfishly. Their memory will be resented. I’ve lived quite selfishly by not seeking the honor of God in my life. Again, it’s time to prune towards a flourishing David that honors God.