A Matter of Faith: ‘Teach us to number our days aright …’


By Sharee Grazda
PREVIEW Columnist

My husband and I had met with the accountant days before. When she called to say our tax return was ready, I offered to pick it up.

Walking down the hall toward her office, I noticed her door was open. Oh, good, I thought, she doesn’t have a client with her. I’ll be able to get in, get out and be on my way in just a few minutes.

As I got closer to the door, I heard voices. There was a man and a woman in the office with her.

Disappointed, I sat down in a chair in the lobby to wait my turn — but not before I stood in the doorway for just a second, so they knew I was there. Maybe if they know I’m out here waiting, they’ll hurry, I reasoned. I had places to go, things to do and people to see.

I got busy making notes about other errands for the day. Occasionally, I was distracted by the visiting woman’s high, tinkling laugh and the man’s deep, mellow voice. They seemed to complement each other. He seemed calm, level-headed. She sounded lively, joyful and at ease.

Finishing my notes, I started thumbing through a magazine about estate planning — certainly not what I wanted to read and think about on my busy day. I tossed that aside and impatiently wondered if I should leave and take my chances later.

Then I heard what the couple were sharing with the accountant. They had spent the last month in Mexico for an unorthodox treatment of the woman’s rapidly progressing cancer. Traditional measures had so far proved useless against the invading horde in her body. That woman has a terminal illness, I marveled. She sounded like someone who had the world by the tail, not someone who might leave it soon.

My interest was piqued and I strained to listen, willing my hearing sense to go around that doorway and into that room so I would not miss a word. 

You don’t know how to live until you’re dying, the woman cheerfully continued. This has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.

What? How could she say that? She sounded almost excited that she carried around in her body something that was trying to kill her. Had the cancer affected her mind as well?

Then the man joined the conversation. Together they explained how much their priorities had changed. No longer did they see money as a gauge of success, but as a means to fight for life and to share life with their children and other loved ones. No longer did they live every day like there were many more to follow, or put off until tomorrow what they could and should do today.

Instantly, a scripture popped into my head. From Psalm 90, a prayer of Moses, the man of God, verse 12: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” 

On the heels of that came the lines of a hymn, “Make haste, O man, to live, for thou so soon must die; time hurries past thee like the breeze, how swift its moments fly!”

In reality, we are all “dying,” getting closer to our demise every day, like that woman; perhaps we haven’t had a medical professional tell us, haven’t received the news to make us focus and prioritize.

My life could suddenly be turned upside down, as that woman’s surely was, or worse — suddenly come to an end — too soon for me to do those things I thought I had time to do later. 

Was I permanently changed from that moment on, always counting my blessings, always doing today what I should not put off until tomorrow, having all my priorities straight? 

Of course not.

Sometimes I forget to “Make haste, to live …” The time-consuming minutiae of daily life can slowly but surely ease out, to the point of eliminating entirely, the vital and priceless pursuit of living life to the fullest — as God and Jesus encourage us to live. If we do live for them, through them, with them, are we not also living to the fullest for ourselves — and for others? 

Changes I have made I will not share; I do hope you will ask yourself if perhaps there are changes you would consider making.

I do things to keep a pleasant home, a balanced checkbook, a clean car; I walk, read, write letters, shop for groceries, cook. I nap. I pray.

But often in the back of my mind as I do these things, all good, all necessary, there is a nagging sensation — a still, small voice perhaps. 

Is this the best use of your time?

What would you most regret leaving undone?

I have no way of knowing if the treatment in Mexico cured the woman, briefly postponed the inevitable, or was to no avail. She never mentioned God or Jesus, at least not in my hearing. Whether her attitude was influenced by her belief and trust in them, or whether she was just a very rational, thoughtful person who had come to accept her fate and was determined to handle it with dignity, who knows?

That woman and I never met, I never even saw her face. She could not know how she affected a stranger. She could not know how her words touched me that day — to this day.

May God encourage the musings of a fellow pilgrim to so move you — to “number your days aright … to gain wisdom … to make haste to live.” To have no reason to regret.