Monday, February 1, 2016

In Life, The Days Are Long But the Years Are Short

“The days are long but the years are short.”  --Gretchen Rubin, “The Happiness Project”

Sundays are always my longest work day. My longest day of the week.

Up at 5 am or earlier, especially if the sermon still needs lots of work.  Then off to church and standing at the front door to greet people, then worship and preaching and prayers, then lots of handshakes and hellos in line and at coffee hour, then home to craft my lesson plan for that evening, then back to church to work more, teach twenty two curious and chatty and funny eighth graders, and then, then, finally, finally, home by 8:30 pm.

Long day. Long days.

Like most folks. Like you and your long days.  Up at dawn to nurse the baby and then make the lunches. Out to the train in the early morning chill, as the sky turns red and then yellow and the sun comes up. In line at Dunkin Donuts waiting for coffee, thinking about all you have to do in the next ten hours. Chauffeuring the kids from school to practice to homework to bed.  Answering emails and writing texts and going to meetings, then rushing home and cooking dinner and loading the dishwasher and finally, finally, that day is done.  Another long day.

“Glad that day’s finally over!” we declare with a sigh. 

But then one day before we know it, there’s no more sermons to preach or kids to teach or parishioners to reach.  One day the infant who nursed at our breast is off to college, not tugging at our elbow for a Popsicle or a hug.  We don’t have to rush to catch the “T” anymore either, or sit in traffic, and the email inbox isn’t so full. We downsize from a minivan to a sensible sedan, make dinner for just two or one, watch a movie, catch the news and as we finally get ready for bed, there’s another long day gone too, another day finally over, finally done.

“Where did that day go?” we ask with a sigh.

The days are long.  The years are short.

It’s not that time itself is going by any faster or slower.  The tick tock of time is inexorable, a given. What finally matters for us as humans residing within time, is how we experience God’s gift of time; how well, or not so well, we use and embrace whatever time in life we have.  This day. Today.  The danger and temptation is to wish for nothing more than to make it to the end of the day. I know I can fall into this trap of asking, pleading, “Is this day over yet?”

But here’s the hard truth.  This day will never happen again. Never.  Once it is done, it is gone, forever.  It may be a good day or a bad day or something in between.  It may be a long day or a short day or a sweet day or a sour day but God gives us just this one day. That’s it. When the clock hits midnight, the day is now but a memory, the stuff of “remember when…”

This is the spiritual tension we all face as finite beings, mere mortals. We may complain that some days seem to go on and on. We may decide when life is full or busy or feels overwhelming with so much to do, that we just have to just push through, rush through, get through, the day. We may even perceive that with so many days, it all just seems to run together. As one world weary writer in the Bible said, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)  Sounds like he or she had a long day.

Yet there is another way to understand the day, a more grateful way, a more hopeful vision, to face into every God given day, especially the very, very long ones. Listen to this wisdom and prayer: “[God] teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:12)  Count the days.  Wake up and wise up to this one “never happened before” and “never will happen again” day.   

So, how was your day?  Was it a long one? An exhausting one?  A never ending one?  A great one? Guess what? One day you won’t have to shovel the snow anymore or watch another of your kids’ games anymore or pick up the laundry off the floor anymore or sit through a boring meeting anymore or flop into bed, exhausted, from another day, anymore. And on that one day you’ll pray for just one more, just one more, long day. I know I will. 

The days are long but the years are short.