Leaving Salem

Leaving Salem

Five Hundred Days

I can remember growing up as a child of the 1970s, envisioning my life as an adult. The turn of the millennium was coming and with it, my thirtieth birthday. I thought my life would essentially be over at that point. Thirty was cane-walking, belly-scratching, false teeth-wearing, old. Now, a half dozen years past that mark, it’s not old at all.

And while silver has begun to appear in my young-punk goatee, I have not yet completely reached the metallic age. You know about the metallic age don’t you?  It’s when you have gold in your teeth, silver in your hair, and lead in your butt. I’m closer, but not there yet.

Still, there was some truth to my youthful anxiety about life ending at thirty. If you are thirty-five years old, you have only five hundred days to live. Let me explain. Based on the average life span of an American, once you reach age thirty-five, subtract the time you are asleep, at work, getting dressed, driving your car – all the necessary but time consuming acts – your remaining leisure time is the equivalency of about five hundred days.

Let that sink in for a minute. Five hundred days. A year and a half. Seventeen months. Seventy-one weeks. That’s not long. The Scripture is right when it says our lives are but vapors on the wind, here only for a moment. My paternal grandfather once put it in these terms, “It seems like it took me longer to get to age eighteen than it did to get from eighteen to eighty.”

The Hebrew patriarch, Moses, who lived a bit longer than the average American, understood the brevity of our lives. He prayed in the Psalms, “Seventy years are given to us! Some may even reach eighty. But even the best of these years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we are gone. Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

The basic laws of economics apply to more than the price of gasoline. These laws relate to our lives as well. We have a limited supply of time. As a result, that time is incredibly precious. How do we make the most of it? What characterizes a life of wisdom?

Surely, this is where biblical relevance can degenerate into something much less. I want to avoid that if I can. It would be easy, with limited time, to spend it all on ourselves: Cruises, exotic getaways, self-absorbed hobbies, conspicuous consumption. Is that truly the best use of our time? Is that the way of wisdom? Sadly, there is enough of that kind of counsel in the self-centered Christianese literature of today’s printing presses.

Certainly our limitation of time should give us the resolve to act, but to act in a way that makes the most of our time. Making the most of our time might mean granting forgiveness to that one who has deeply hurt us. It could mean taking those classes to become a foster parent. Could it be picking up the phone and making things right with that estranged family member? It may possibly mean making that job change that will enable you to spend time in a way that really matters. It might mean taking the time to visit that loved one at the nursing home that you keep intending to go see, but haven’t done so yet.

We all have tasks, which if left undone, can never be retrieved or reclaimed. Wisdom necessitates that these things not fall to the ground.

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