by Candice Watters
We’re big planners. The end of a year in our home means reviewing the highs and lows, blessings and challenges of time recently passed. And the start of a new one means a fresh slate of ideas and aspirations. Steve and I both embrace the discipline of setting goals and living intentionally. We’ve seen the benefits of shared priorities in our marriage and parenting, and encourage couples to take time to pray and plan for the year ahead. In an article, Steve talked about our early attempts to plan our year giving way to a more prayerful focus (Goal Setting and the Lake Effect). In a Family Life radio broadcast, we talked about “planning for oneness.”
And yet, yesterday, with only two mornings left in December, as I started my morning wondering how many chapters of the Bible I could read before the kids woke up in a last push to finish all 66 books before the end of the year, my mind was full of all the items I was planning to do once I crossed the starting line of the new year. I was feeling overwhelmed.
Setting aside the book of Numbers (one of the five I had remaining), I turned to the Psalms. Before long I was reading Psalm 90. I stopped at verse 12,
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
I’d read it before. Lots of times. I love this prayer of Moses. But this time it slowed me down. I read it. Then I read it again. I copied it in my journal–a third reading. And still, I read it. Every word was speaking comfort to my agitated heart. This verse is a plea to the Lord to teach us. There’s something about noticing time–and measuring it–that leads to wisdom. But we need the Lord to teach us how to do this. I need to submit to God’s instruction to learn how to do this–to not just mark off the passage of time with checks on a calendar, or bemoan it slipping away like so many grains of sand in an hourglass–but to number them; to rightly assess the gift of days God gives me, and to steward them well, for His glory.
Planning a smarter to do list isn’t the path to wisdom. Neither is squeezing in maximum activity, even when each thing I’m doing is a good thing. We must go to God in prayer over the shape of our calendar for the new year. This isn’t a burden, it’s an invitation. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). It is in communion with God, in prayer and in His Word, that we learn how to rightly view our lives–the years, the days, the moments. In this learning is wisdom.
We’ll still spend a portion of Thursday writing down our goals for 2015. This is a helpful exercise that focuses our limited energies and resources. We’ll pray together and talk about what’s coming up over the next 12 months. We’ll plan a 13th birthday party for our second born, make time for exercise, rest on Sundays, and save up for a trip to see Steve’s grandma. We’ll do that and more. But it’s a comfort, after another full year, to stop and ponder God’s perspective on the use and passing of time.
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)
As 2014 winds to a close, I pray we’ll be unburdened by the passing of time and occupied with joy in our hearts.
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