“Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Time waits for no one. Indeed, nothing brings that message home more than the marking of another birthday or if you have been “on” Facebook for any length of time, receiving a “Because We Care” photo flashback of your life a year or longer ago. I was recently treated to a photo of me standing between my healthy Mom and Dad beaming happiness from the steps of our front porch in Billings, five years ago. Sometimes it feels like you are just slogging through your days, like nothing ever changes and weeks creep by then POOF! five years have passed and life isn’t even remotely the same.
I turn another year older today and find myself once again scratching my head in wonder at where the time went. For the last few months, my life has been full of what a positive spin-meister would call “learning – opportunities.” I, on the other hand would prefer to think I have garnered enough wisdom for the time being, thank you very much! Nonetheless, as I have made my way through these “learning- opportunities” I have acquired an unsettling sense of urgency to go to the head of the class in realizing some sort of significance or purpose for my life.
On a recent trip home to help with transitioning my Mom to a nursing home and be of some kind of support to my Dad, I ventured into the crawl space beneath our family home of 27 years and stood at a loss. I was there to survey the “stuff.” Stuff that once held significance now coated in another year’s layer of dust. In no particular order other than “this looks like a good place” sat boxes of land management text books going back to my Dad’s college days, news-clippings, awards, and photo albums chronicling my dad’s career, Montana magazines, slide reels documenting the Morck family’s life going back to the 50’s. Class-room odds and ends from my Mom’s days as a teacher 60 some years ago, military mementos, a classy collection of LP’s, empty picture frames, paintings without frames, porcelain figurines, board games, candle holders, broken baskets, furniture pieces that never never knew the thrill of being Craig’s-listed, lamp bases whose shades didn’t survive a move, an old dog crate now filled with fabric, dressers filled with more fabric and sewing patterns for clothing for every stage of life, Christmas decorations galore, not to mention the seemingly endless items here and there that should have been tossed decades ago rather than moved from one town to the next – still bearing moving stickers, sometimes more than one move’s worth, congregating in piles or leaning against the wall. Oh where to begin?
And there in a corner sat the toy box my dad built to hold all my childhood play. The naughty emptiness of that toy-box almost kept Santa from coming to this one-time messy little girl’s house. Opening it now the memories contained inside seem so long ago and yet just yesterday. Beside it stood the bookcase that once held prominence in my many bedrooms over the years but was now hidden below ground, still housing my collection of the entire set of original Nancy Drew mysteries, along with my love affair with Laura Ingalls- Wilder. Items that seemed so everyday way back when – now serve as significant contributors to the ache in the back of my throat.
As I stood there looking at the forgotten “stuff” of life, I realized that while it may have been the stuff of everyday life at one time to us and may now just be junk to anyone else, this stuff has significance today, at least to the 5 members of the Morck family. It serves as a chronicle of a family that made do with what we had, enjoyed the simple pleasures of hand me downs from clothes to games to suitcases, and valued our family’s history as much as our future. Well, ok maybe all the empty, dusty jars that would be filled with chokecherry syrup someday really don’t have much significance, but the memories of that sweet dark red syrup poured over pancakes on Sunday mornings sure do!
Perhaps in my quest to find significance in my life I should pause and remember where I have been. As humans we tend to only see the here and now in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. In our urgent desires to get things done, to be somebody – darn it, we become blinded to what we already have done and who we have become. If I take a moment to look back on the “learning opportunities” I have survived in the past, I can see that while the route seemed like a very long dark tunnel, I did find the light at the end. Standing in the clear light of hindsight today I would not trade any of those past “learning opportunity tunnels” for a different route.
Perhaps I wasn’t meant to help head a family or be the next Steve Jobs but in some way that I can’t quite see right now, God has used me and will use me for His greater plan. There must be some purpose in the path I have already taken and the journey that lay ahead. I’ll likely never know the impact I have made on others or the mark I have left on this world until I read my own obituary in the Heavenly Herald. For now, I will have to accept that only God knows the number of our days and time waits for no one. Even Moses found himself praying to the Lord for direction and purpose. Our job is to seek hearts of wisdom, sing for joy, and be glad in all our days.
A prayer of Moses the man of God.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.