By Elizabeth Prata
Last week I turned 62. I’m OK with the advancing age. That isn’t what this essay is about. I was rather tickled to think I’ve now entered into the official Social Security senior citizen era.
My bemusement comes from the fact that once again, the Bible is right. Life is a vapor. It really does emerge, happen, and extinguish in what feels like mere moments.
My first memory occurred 8 weeks after I turned 3. That means I have 59 years of memories. Fifty-nine years of experiences. Fifty-nine years of the good, the bad, the inconsequential. It’s a heavy load to carry that many memories, and I suspect it gets heavier as time goes on. If the Lord continues my life 10, 20, even 30 more years, that’s a lot more emotional gear attached to my heart.
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)
But more than that obvious statement about age and memories and baggage etc., which is nothing new under the sun, is the notion that it all happened in the blink of an eye. You know this, older people have been telling you ‘It goes so fast!’ all their life. You understand this as a fact, because in addition to hearing it from older relatives, the Bible advises on the brevity of life over and over.
But once you experience it, man, it gets real.
How quickly does the steam disappear over the teacup? How far out from our mouth does thee cold frozen air extend? How high does the haze from the hot pavement rise?
You, indeed, have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing before You. Truly each man at his best exists as but a breath. Selah (Psalm 39:5)
When I turned 30 I quit my teaching job and sailed off to the Bahamas with a blue eyed handsome man. When I was 40 I started a newspaper, using it to ‘clean up this town’. When I was 50 I returned to education as a career. At 61 I was just working as a teacher’s aide and not looking ahead too much. But I got COVID, and was out of work for 2 and a half weeks. I was deathly ill. A nurse friend wanted me to go to the hospital, but I refused. I spent 9 days with a fever of 102 or higher, and my oxygen levels dipped low. My brain felt good and fried by the end but I made it. It took me a long time to recover and I’m still not the same as I was before I had that awful flu. That event caused me to really think hard about life and death. Only two times before in all my life was I that ill.
Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:4)
That’s been my pattern – big life changes at each decade.
I clearly remember my 30s. It truly feels like yesterday. I think of something that happened “last year” and it was in fact ten years ago. Because we are warned about the brevity of life, because we are told how fast it all goes, (even if he is gracious to give us 70 or 80 years), then what manner of life shall I live for God? How shall we live? Are we glorifying God to the best of our ability? Even to half our ability? Do we think of Him more than we think of family, work, personal needs and wants? If the chief end of man as the Westminster Catechism says, is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever, are we enjoying Him?
For my days vanish like smoke, and my bones burn like glowing embers. (Psalm 102:3)
Putting off till tomorrow is easy to do. Then suddenly you’re 62 and realize that all the days of tomorrows have piled into years. Why will we cry in heaven and He has to wipe away tears? Will it be because we realize then how much time He gave us and how much of it we squandered?
I’ll add my voice to the chorus, young ladies, life does traverse the streams of time quickly. It might feel like a gentle meander in a raft down a lazy river, but you are truly riding a speedboat in the rapids. Use your time well, each and every day. Love your husband, raise your children, hug them!! Or if you are single, all the more to live for Him- and enjoy Him.