Every year of my life, our family has gone to the Florida Panhandle for vacation. I love everything about the ocean: the sun, the beach, the sand, the sound of the crashing waves, and, oh, the sunsets! This photo was taken from the balcony of our condo. The full moon was so bright that the sky looked like day at 9:00 pm.
What I love best about these beach vacations are the treasured memories that the experience evokes. This year, though, it was quite different from the years gone by. First, there was a tropical storm named Alberto looming over the Gulf of Mexico that threatened to wreck our trip. We were all so desperate for this vacation, that even after the governor of Florida declared a state of emergency, none of us even entertained the thought of abandoning our vacation to get out of the path of danger. Thankfully, Alberto’s bark was worse than his bite, and the tropical storm was uneventful.
The storm was inconsequential anyway compared to the second reason this vacation was so different. In the last four months, we lost my grandmother and my daddy. For most of these family vacations, daddy was with us. The same week my daddy went home to be with Jesus, so did Herb Hodges—a man whom I considered a spiritual father. All these losses made for a bittersweet vacation.
This may sound morbid, but death has made me ponder the brevity of life and how to redeem my allotted time. Here are a few devotional passages that became my meditation for the week.
Digging Deeper: Job 5:7, 8:9, 14:1-5; Psalm 78:39; Isaiah 40:6-8; 1 Corinthians 7:29; Hebrews 9:27; James 1:10-11, 4:14; 1 Peter 1:24; 2 Peter 3:8
Ecclesiastes 1:2-7 (KJV)
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 (KJV)
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance….
Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 (KJV)
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
We use phrases like “living on borrowed time, “spending time,” “wasting time,” “passing time,” “where has the time gone?” and “time flies.” When we procrastinate we say, “I will get to it some other time.” Or, when others finally quit procrastinating we say, “Well, it’s about time!” Sometimes we intrude on other’s time, but we politely ask, “May I have a moment of your time?” Or, when we assert ownership of our time, we say, “This is my time.” But, sooner or later, God will say, “Time’s up!”
Psalm 103:14-17 (KJV)
For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.
Psalm 89:47-48 (KJV)
Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
A week before my father’s death, he said to a close friend, “I hope the Lord will grant me just five more years.” Whether it be facing your own possible terminal illness or the death of a loved one, death can be one of life’s greatest teachers. What is the big lesson of death? Time is our most precious commodity. The wisdom of this truth, if applied, is that we should make the most of our time because our days are numbered (Psalm 139:16; Ephesians 5:15-16).
The thing about time is, long life or short, we don’t have much of it. Just go to the cemetery and read the markers: “Here lies so and so, born on such and such a date, died on such and such a date.” The tiny dash in the middle represent your life in its entirety. We don’t own our dash—we are merely stewards of it (Matthew 5:1-6). And, in due time, we will stand before God and give an account. Will we be wise or foolish?
Psalm 90:9-12 (KJV)
For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
The Hebrew word Selah that is used throughout the Psalms means to stop and think about this. Since now is all we have, there is no time like the present to stop and think about how to leverage life’s most precious commodity and not waste time on things that won’t amount to a hill of beans when our time is up. Selah!