“In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
* * *
One definition listed for “milestone” is “an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.” It seems that as humans we like to do that, to mark our passage through life, our achievements, to measure our progress. Today is my 75th birthday, a definite historical milestone for me.
It’s interesting how we quantify time in our lives. Young children boast about their age counting by single specific years. “I’m five, but I’m gunna be six,” or seven or eight. Later it’s a bit more reluctant and less specific, by the decade: in my twenties, thirties, forty-ish. At this juncture I can gauge my lifespan by quarter-century marks, three of them! Yikes. That’s a lot of water under the bridge as they say, some of it a peaceful meandering stream, and at other times a raging torrent.
The Bible’s Book of James says, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James is probably testifying to Psalm 144:4 which says, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” But as we all know, some folk’s shadows disappear more quickly than others. Just a while back the local 10 o’clock news reported on the tragic death of a nine-year-old boy struck by a car and killed on his way home from school. Changing to a more upbeat tone, the news anchor’s next item to report was the celebration of a great-grandmother’s 102nd birthday. What a perplexing paradox. On the eve of my birthday five years ago I lost a dear friend to an accidental death. He was just 26, an Army vet who had served without a scratch in Afghanistan. I was hoping to have years of buddy time together, but sadly it was not to be. Last year right before Thanksgiving a young man I was just starting to get to know better without warning took his own life. It’s this cruel disparity in the days of our lives that makes me scratch my spiritual head and wonder, Hey, what’s this all about anyway? How does God decide when to click the stopwatch on and off?
Although we like to think otherwise, much of what happens in the universe remains a mystery, the answers known only to God. I do believe, however, He gives us enough information and guidance to live out our allotted time on this planet as well as we can. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” prays the writer of Psalm 90, traditionally attributed to Moses, who himself lived to be 120. It is wise, then, to be aware of our ever impending mortality.
In thinking about writing this post, I remembered the lines quoted above in the intro from T.S. Elliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the poem’s subject lamenting that his life basically amounts to nothing other than the droll repetition of one uneventful, insignificant day after another. As with any piece of art or literature, there are critics and a variety of interpretations. One such commentator on the poem writes, “The image of the coffee spoon is one of middle-class domesticity. The idea of measuring one’s life with such an instrument implies a lack of risk or excitement; instead of big decisions or milestone events defining the course of his life, all Prufrock has with which to mark his time on earth is the quotidian coffee spoon.” That, my friends, is a real tragedy. A purposeless, unfulfilled, empty life isn’t life at all, but a painfully prolonged expectation of one’s ultimate termination in the grave, when time mercifully runs out.
In a complete contrast, the Bible is full of advice on profitable time management, just one of the keys to a life worth living. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). How relevant is that age-old advice today! [Go to https://www.openbible.info/topics/time_management for many more examples.]
Life can be anything but mundane. Shouldn’t we then treasure every minute we have, to vigorously live out the destiny God so graciously offers us, to leave a legacy of faith and love behind to our family, friends and neighbors? Even at this late stage of my life I want to “get a heart of wisdom,” and to learn how to properly “number our days.” Personally, with that perspective put into practice, I’m hoping for more than a measure of coffee spoons to be recorded on my tombstone. What about you?
Will you make this Christmas season the most important milestone in your life with a decision to believe that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to save us all from a purposeless life and to give you eternal hope? Don’t let this moment of opportunity pass. Follow the spiritual star of divine inspiration leading to your personal encounter with the Savior. Sing from a truly happy heart for the very first time,
O come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of Angels
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!