Old Photographs

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Psalms 90:12, KJV


In my office I have an old photograph. It is of a family in the early 1900's. The husband and wife are likely in their early thirties, but look much older due to the harshness of just existing in that era. There are three girls and a boy of about two. Looking at the picture you would assume that there are four girls because the boy is clothed in a hand-me-down dress since that was the style of the day and likely all that the couple could afford. The oldest girl is clearly sad. The reason for this is that in her haste to bring out her pet potbellied pig, he wriggled our of her arms and met with an untimely fate. The fact that he would have eventually ended up as ham and bacon anyway appeared to have done little to console her.


The wife is the descendent of what you might refer to as American royalty. Her great-grandfather was a personal friend of George Washington, a Revolutionary War veteran, a signer of the Constitution, and the first Governor of Tennessee. But as fate would have it, she is now posing for a family picture, not from the comfortable indoors of a Governor's mansion in Tennessee, but from the outside of a dugout house in the Oklahoma and Indian Territories.


The husband and wife are my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, the three girls would later become my great-aunts, and the man would become known to me as Uncle Percy. I can remember going to his and my Aunt Retta's 50th wedding anniversary in Green River, Wyoming in the late 1960's.


While each of these individuals had their own unique life-story to tell, it is for another purpose that I wanted to talk to you about today, and that purpose is this: Though the picture is of six people who were young and had their whole lives ahead of them, most of whom were to reach the ripe old age of 80 and beyond, the fact is that all are now dead and were buried long ago. Each one, at the moment this photo was taken, was in the beginning of a life that would be filled with their own ambitions and dreams and problems and everything else that life comes fully equipped with, but each one is now long passed.


And while each one had their own joys and sorrows and accomplishments, the only thing that mattered to them when their life came to an end was whether or not they were saved. And that's the thing that you and I have in common with these six people.


At the present time we are living with the same prospects that these six had. We too have our ambitions and dreams and problems. We too have full-scheduled days that keep us occupied with our own joys and sorrows. It is a good life, for the most part, and we are truly blessed to have it. But someday, just as surely as time caught up to my six ancestors in the picture, it will eventually catch up to us as well. The wise person will ask himself, "what then?" 


Now, I don't want to be depressing for I believe that God wants us to enjoy life to the full. Jesus Himself pointed out that He had come into this world so that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). This life when lived right can be one filled with blessing and hope. God wants us to experience that, but He also wants us to "number our days" so that we can keep the proper perspective. I suppose that is one of the reasons I keep this old picture in my office: It helps to remind me that regardless of the fact that I feel at times that I will live on this earth forever, I am mortal. The fact that I can look at six people from a day in their life over a century ago proves it, as does the fact that a quarter of a century has passed since I first put that picture on my desk.


Now please don't get me wrong. I am not reluctant to get older at all (well, I do miss getting to play basketball when my knees were younger). The older I get, the more that I realize that most of my physical pursuits have not been nearly as important as they seemed at the time. The things that matter more and more to me now are the same things that mattered to the six in the picture when their time approached. Am I saved? Are those I love saved? Have I been pleasing to God?


The reason that God wants us to number our days is not to lesson the quality of our life - just the opposite. He wants us to be thinking of our mortality now so that we can enjoy immortality later. He has placed before each one of us the very real possibility of a long and full life, so we should enjoy that. But at the same time we need to be keeping first things first, for our mortal lives have the same purpose that our eternal lives do. We are here to serve God forever! If we can keep that perspective, I believe that our lives will be enhanced, not diminished. We are going to Heaven someday if we are prepared to do so. It will of course be the result of the grace of God and the shed blood of Christ, but we surely have our end of the bargain to uphold. And part of that is to number our days now, so that we can enjoy endless days forever.


Are you numbering your days?