Signposts: Daily Devotions

Saturday, January 17

So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
—Psalm 90:12

In his book about the psalms, Bread in the Wilderness, Thomas Merton writes, “They (the psalms) are bread, miraculously provided by Christ, to feed those who have followed Him into the wilderness.” How true, and what a lovely metaphor: bread to feed us in the wilderness. In whatever wilderness we find ourselves, the psalms meet us. 

The range of emotions, the depth and scope of human experience found in the psalms is startling. If you have never prayed with the psalms, or if you have not read them on a regular basis, please give yourself a gift and start today. Peter Gomes, the great preacher and Harvard chaplain, says that when people ask him how to read the Bible, he tells them to start with the Psalms.

This passage from Psalm 90 is well known, but do we understand it? What does it mean to ask God, "so teach us to number our days?" I don’t think the psalmist means that we are to become fixated on how long we have to live. Rather, to number our days is to appreciate each day, to savor what each day brings—tasting and feeling and laughing and crying—and, above all, being free of the compulsion to do, produce, and succeed.

There is a Spanish proverb: “How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.” Is that what the psalmist means by wisdom? For our workaholic culture, the words of this psalm could be a saving grace. If we can do "nothing" and rest afterward, we will begin to number our days in a whole new way. 

Dear God, teach us to number our days. Help us to be more aware of the precious gift of life you have given us. And give us the grace to do nothing, and then rest afterward. Amen.