Tic-toc, tic-toc, tic -toc. Besides the occasional slow exhale, those were the only sounds heard in the room. The scene was a normal Tuesday morning prayer meeting. We were spending our usual five minutes in silence preparing our hearts for intercession. It was into this silence the generic round wall clock spoke. No one else in the room may have even heard it chattering away, but I knew it was talking to me.
Every time the hand clicked away another second, it seemed like the tic-toc got louder. Realistically, the clock probably wasn’t any louder than usual. I was just finally quiet enough to hear it. Its message was much shorter than most of mine, but it rang out with a clarity I often spend hours trying to achieve. The message was simple, “Your life is quickly ticking away. What are you doing with it?”
Almost immediately, the twelfth verse of the ninetieth Psalm came to mind. There, Moses penned the words, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I find it fascinating that, somewhere past age 80, Moses was not praying for power or protection. He was asking God to teach him how to count. His concern wasn’t the ability to tally the days he’d lived; what he wanted was to learn how to count the days he had left. His reasoning was simple. He wasn’t asking so he could plan elaborate trips or know how much he would need to save for retirement. No, he wanted to learn how to count so that by preparing to die he could learn how to live.
Like Moses, we all have an invisible, unchangeable expiration date stamped on these bodies of clay. We are all on death’s layaway plan. Every day he’s making payments, every day he’s getting closer to claiming what’s his. We can’t cancel or postpone our meeting. This is one appointment everyone will be on time for. When the buzzer sounds there will be no overtime. When the game is over, win or lose, the score will be unchangeable.
One day–and it may be sooner that we would care to imagine–our entire life will be summed up by nothing more than a dash between two dates. It’s a sobering thought to realize that once our last breath is taken, the dash can’t be undone. No one gets a dateline do-over. As certainly as the first date on our headstone is already written, so the final date is already set in stone. We’re just living on the line.
This knowledge should force us to confront ourselves with the question, “What am I doing with my dash?” Living in the shadow of our own mortality isn’t a morbid thing; it’s a wise thing. Wisdom is not knowing something; it’s doing something with what we know. We know death is certain. Wisdom is making prearrangements. Numbering our days doesn’t come naturally for most of us because we don’t want to think about our own expiration date, but it is an essential element to wise kingdom living.
I think back often to that day in the conference room. Sometimes I can still hear the clock methodically ticking away. Every time I think about that morning, I feel forced to ask, “Am I investing my minutes in things that will last longer than the carnations placed on my grave?” The phrase my childhood pastor often quoted comes to mind, “Only one life, will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
One day we will all stand before God. When we look into the fiery eyes of Christ, and the fiery eyes of Christ look into us, all that will matter is what we did with Him and what we did for Him. In the moment we behold the Invisible One, our achievements, our status, our elaborate trips, and our bank accounts suddenly won’t even be a story we care to tell. All that will matter then will be His approval. If it will be that way then, shouldn’t it be that way now? Knowing our time is limited should cause us to want to learn to count our days now so that our days will count later.
Even though no one else may have even heard it, I knew that God was in the room that morning, and He was speaking to me through the tic and toc of a Walmart clock. I encourage you, no matter your age, it’s never too late to learn to count. There is wisdom in learning to count early, but learning to count late is better than never learning to count at all. Living with death in mind is wise, but dying without ever considering how we’re living is foolish. Life is brief but eternity is not. Therefore, our prayer should be, “Lord teach me to count.”
-Pastor Benjamin Webb