|April 5, 2019
By Richard Huls
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. …
12 So teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.
Read the full psalm.
The writer of this psalm makes us aware of the brevity of life, something we are reminded of every time we pass a mortuary or cemetery. And yet, with our consumptive behavior, we often live as if there is no end to our days. Lent is a perfect time to reconsider our life style and belief systems. It is a call for not only penitence (abstaining), but also repentance (changing). Christ makes us aware of our pursuits and what is essential with these words: “What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?” (Matthew 16:26). The psalmist reminds us that our very life is from God (v. 1), and later in the Psalms, we are reminded of the reality of life’s brevity: “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (Psalm 103:15).
As a chaplain who has served in many capacities, first in the military, then in law enforcement, in hospice, and presently in the retirement community, I am more aware than ever how fragile and transitory life is—impairment, sickness, frailty, and death are the realities of life. We might make it to age 70 or, if by reason of strength, 80, then it is over, says the author. The psalmist then gives us a word for our Lenten thought in this transitory life in verse 12, “So teach us to count our days that we might gain a wise heart.” In order to reach this place in our lives with conviction and success, it will take time in reflection, prayer, and perhaps even fasting, which is what the Lenten experience is all about. Jesus himself in his journey to the cross, prepared for death with wisdom.