A few weeks ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend a special concert here in Nashville for one of our favorite artists, Michael W. Smith. Set up as a sort of tribute event (a well-deserved one, to be sure), the stage was like a running movie of so much of our lives. There’s the first contemporary Christian song I ever heard— the one that let me know I wasn’t really completely alone in the universe as a believing teenager; that’s the one that let us know we were headed the right direction when we were considering our first cross-country move; there’s the song I broke down listening to the year after I met my dad for the first time and realized all God had been teaching me over the preceding four decades—mostly about Himself.
The lineup was somewhat of a surprise as the complete list of artists hadn’t been released before the concert, and we found ourselves gasping and squealing (okay, I did most of the squealing) as bright star after bright star took the stage. I’m talking stars, people—Wynona Judd, Steven Curtis Chapman, Kathie Lee Gifford, Charlie Daniels—so many folks from all sorts of arenas, all gathering to fete a friend who had inspired us all for decades. It was quite an evening.
I kept thinking about what it must feel like to be Michael, watching all these folks, these friends, honor him with his own beautiful music. What it must be like to know you’d used your life well, managing to encourage and challenge and gladden literally millions of people for decades. It made me think, in other words, about the way I was using my own life.
There was also a revelation which sunk in slowly, as I watched these talented brothers and sisters take the stage; one I hadn’t anticipated. You may want to sit down and clutch your pearls before I tell you what we realized, just in case you’re a contemporary of mine. Okay, ya ready? Here goes …
WE ARE OLD.
It’s true. All these beautiful people we listened to so many years ago? Years have gone by for both of us. They are still incredibly talented. So many have held the light high faithfully for many years, They are also, dare we say, grey. Some are a bit wrinkle-y. Some are walking with canes. They sing their own songs just a hair more slowly than they used to. And as I sang along and watched, it became clear: me, too.
My oldest princess used to be 2.
And then two minutes later, last month, she looked like this.
A few days ago I got a phone call: my sister-in-law, who is my age, had collapsed at work and been hospitalized, awaiting a mitral valve repair. We are considering every moment a gift, and there it was again …
Remember, you’re going to die.
“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
The message is insistent right now, it seems, from the sudden passing of well-known leaders to the death I read of a few days ago on social media, of a four-year-old boy struck by a falling tree while riding a four-wheeler in his front yard. We are guaranteed nothing; not next year, not tomorrow, not five minutes from now. It might come as a shock, but for most of us, the evidence is in the mirror, and on the scale, and in our catching breath at the top of the stairs.
Number your days.
Number your days.
Number your days.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. ~ Annie Dillard
Several years ago, in the middle of lamenting the fact that I’d never earned a college degree and if I wanted to do it at this stage of my life, it would probably take twice as long as if I’d done it at a more “normal” time, I read something that would change my perspective on lots of things permanently: the next eight years are going to go by, regardless. No matter what I chose, 2020 would come, and I would have either done the work … or not.
I enrolled a week later. And am on track to graduate next May, these years having indeed gone by, with more life and death and ups and downs than I ever could have imagined.
So today I want to ask …
What are you putting off, friend? What are you not doing because someone told you it was too late?
I want to say something important to you, today, because maybe someone needs to hear it:
If you’re still breathing, it’s not too late.
But every breath is a gift, and you’ll only know the last one from the other side. Years will go by. Who do you want to have been? What do you want people to feel when you walk into a room? What do you want them to think about—to miss—when you’re not walking into rooms any more? Who should you call? Who should you forgive? Of whom should you ask forgiveness? Where should you move? Where should you return to? What should you write? What should you say? What should you go see?
Number your days. And ask God why you have this one, and what to do with it. I have a feeling He might have some ideas.