“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps.90:12)
Recently I have been noticing a lot of attention being given to a concept called mindfulness. There was a segment on “60 Minutes” regarding this topic and a very interesting “Ted Talk” that I watched online. Without getting into too much detail about this latest cultural catchphrase, the gist of mindfulness seems to be rooted in the need to make the best use of one’s time by staying focused on the present and separating the truly important from the trivial.
Being mindful is about being intentional with our time, rather than allowing our time to be overwhelmed with trivia or other people’s priorities. In this day of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and so many other distractions, it‘s easy to fall into the trap of letting the unimportant and trivial dictate the use of our time rather than consciously managing it for our greater benefit. If we’re not careful, life will just happen to us until one day we’ll wonder where it went.
While the term mindfulness might seem to be a new concept, the truth is that God’s Word has much to say about it. The Scripture verse that heads this article, Psalm 90:12, was actually a prayer of Moses. Prov. 21:29 says, “an upright man gives thought to his ways.” Rom. 12:2 commands us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. 2 Cor. 10:5 urges us to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Paul says in Eph. 5:15-16, “Be very careful then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Sports psychologists make their living largely by teaching their clients to “stay in the present”, forgetting the bad plays, the bad shots, the unforced errors, and focus instead on the next shot or the next play. Many of us could benefit by applying that advice to our lives. One of the things I most appreciated about my parents’ generation, The Greatest Generation, is that while they were shaped by their past, and often scarred by their past, they didn’t live in their past. They lived in the present while planning and creating a future – not just for themselves, but for future generations as well.
Practically speaking, for a Christian, mindfulness begins with Bible study and prayer. If you’re not setting aside time for that each day, then you will find yourself constantly walking in step with the world’s priorities rather than God’s. Prov. 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Following this advice begins with prayer and Bible study.
J. Oswald Sanders, a noted Christian author, says “It is impossible for a believer, no matter what his experience, to keep right with God if he will not take the trouble to spend time with God. Spend plenty of time with him; let other things go, but don’t neglect Him.” In Col. 3:2, Paul commands us to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” In light of the resurrection that we celebrated last Sunday, we are called to live in awareness that our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil. 3:20) The Bible counsels us to be ALIVE – Always Living In View of Eternity!
But while God reminds us to live with eternity in view, he also reminds us to enjoy each present moment as well. The abundant life Jesus promises does not just lie beyond the grave – it is for here and now. Many people miss that underlying message in the Book of Ecclesiastes, written by a man who received great wisdom from God. While Solomon decried much of the meaninglessness of so much of the lures of this life, he encourages us to enjoy ourselves as well, finding satisfaction in good food and drink, in our work (Eccl.2:24), taking time to laugh (Eccl.10:19) and to cherish our families. (Eccl.9:9)
A few months ago, I watched a movie titled “About Time”. It was about a man who discovers the family secret that upon reaching adulthood, he would receive the ability to travel back to previous times in his life. He soon learned some of the drawbacks of trying to change some of his most painful and regretful experiences as he came to realize that many of those difficulties and disappointments led to some of his greatest blessings and treasures.
But the greatest lesson he learned was by following the wise advice of his father, who advised him that when traveling back to previous moments in his life, to be careful not to change too much. He recommended that he live each day twice: the first time as we normally do, experiencing each day’s inherent unpredictability and stress, and the second time focusing on savoring the small joys and special moments that often occur without us realizing how special they are or how much we’ll miss them later.
When my brother was placed in home hospice care last September, this was how he lived out the last four months of his life, cherishing each moment he had left with his wife, daughter, and his two precious grandchildren. When I didn’t think he had any strength left to be able to climb up on his tractor, I was overjoyed one day to receive this photo of him with his grandson, Owen, taking him for one last ride with Pappaw!
Ronnie learned the secret voiced so well by that great philosopher Tim McGraw of living like he was dying. While he didn’t go sky diving or Rocky Mountain climbing, and he certainly didn’t go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu, he did take the time to love deeper, speak sweeter, give forgiveness he’d been denying, to grow closer to his Lord, and to treat tomorrow as a gift. He discovered that there’s no present like the time!
Perhaps that’s the simple message of the concept of mindfulness – live like you were dying. After all, we all are, you know!
Speaking of time, I suppose I’ve taken enough of yours. So, until next time, may the grace, joy, and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. And may you number your days aright that you may gain a heart of wisdom.
“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.” (Ps.39:4)
Note: All Scripture references taken from the New International Version (NIV)