By: C. Ivan Spencer
Editor’s Note: Dr. C. Ivan Spencer is Professor of History and Philosophy at The College at Southeastern and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the recently published book: ‘Tweetable Nietzsche‘.
Twenty Thousand Days Beneath the Sun
Lord, reveal to me the end of my life
and the number of my days.
Let me know how short-lived I am. (Ps 39.4 HCSB)
For in Your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that passes by,
like a few hours of the night. (Ps 90.4)
Teach us to number our days carefully
so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. (Ps 90.12)
People don’t count off their days under the Sun, but their years. Ask anyone their age, and you’ll get years, not days. Birthday candles are easier this way. It’s an Egyptian thing. The year eludes us and misleads us as a psychological marker of age and time. Too long, too expansive to grasp. Scan the ocean with your eyes. Like the year, you lose scale and distance. The Psalmist asked God to reveal the number of his days, that basic unit of time we should still use to understand life’s passage. Today, (August 9, 2017) I mark 20,000 days of existence. (Don’t…add’m…up. It’s 54.8 years) 20K seems a small number. Any one of us might put 20K miles on a car soon, or spend that many dollars.
Ignorant of the year, people long measured time with the seasons, moons, and days. The Psalmist wrote in those times. The Hebrew word for year means a cycle of seasons. They didn’t have a ball drop in Jerusalem at a precise second. Only later did people learn that the moon did not sync well with solar movements of time. Lunar calendars wander around on the solar calendar. This can still be seen with the date of Easter, which always baffles people. Neither does the day sync up perfectly, thus the Leap Year. What, if any, matter does it make on the human psyche if we measure life in days, lunar months, or years? The day, an easily marked and reasonably smaller increment, helps people measure time in a psychologically pleasing manner. We do, after all, each have a circadian rhythm. Now with modern technical precision, we can measure time in nanoseconds, even femptoseconds (billionth and trillionth). Great for computers, but of little psychological significance. What is time anyway? Some say it’s illusory. Einstein proved (yes, proved) that time moves at different speeds in different places around the cosmos. It even moves differently for my cat on the floor because she is closer to the earth’s gravity. Knowledge of this is what makes our GPS devices work. But, what does a cat care about time…or anything but food? Humans live acutely aware of time and animals don’t. Like all of the abilities that set us apart from the furry kingdom, temporal awareness can make us miserable if we don’t see those powers from God’s perspective. He tells us to mark our days.
God surely knows every temporal stream. Geek that I tend to be, I calculated the formula for my age using the Psalms. If a thousand years equals a “God-day” then my 20K Earth days = 1.31 hrs. In other words, I’m only 1 hour and 20 minutes old on God’s “Psalm Time,” which I liken to his eternal viewpoint in my mediation on God. So, what would one of my 20K days be in God’s “day?” No worry. I’ll do the math. It’s about .25 of a second. A whole day of our Earth time is a split second in God. Of course the Psalmist probably isn’t literal, but he very well may be given what Einstein learned about time. Places exist where time moves that differently to our Earth time. Einstein 3,000 years after the Psalmist gave us the math that the Psalmist had revealed to him by God. The Psalms call attention to everyone’s vapor-like life and that God knows all, operates in all, time streams.
I’ll probably not see another 20K days here on Earth. God numbers them, and unless he reveals our number like the Psalmist asked, we must wake up daily with the thought somewhere in our mind that this may be our last here on Earth. As Gandalf told Frodo, “All you have to do is decide what to do with the time given to you.” God tells us to be aware of our days. Number them. I’m at 20K today. I’ve numbered them carefully as he said. Where are you? What will you do with your days?