Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
As I get older, I seem to be attending more funerals. Friends and colleagues I have known for years have reached the end of their mortal life. And I gather in churches and funeral chapels to help say goodbye.
I guess you may have the same experience. It makes me ask a question: Do I appreciate each day that God has given me? Life is extremely precious. I say precious because it is precarious as it does not go on forever. We need to appreciate and value every single day and acknowledge the blessings that God has given us.
You May Be Walking Past Someone You Shouldn’t Miss
On a cold January morning, a man began to play the violin in a busy Washington D.C. subway station. He played six different Bach pieces for a period of 45 minutes, as thousands of people streamed by. Some slowed down a bit to listen or drop some money in his violin case, but most shuffled past him in a rush to get to work.
A mother and child walked by and the child tugged on his mother’s arm to stop and listen to the music, but, irritated, she dragged him on towards the train. When the violinist stopped playing, there was no applause, just the sound of footsteps down the corridor. What nobody realised was that the man was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s best violinists, and a performer who had sold out concerts at $100-a-seat in Boston just two days before.
In addition, he was playing some of the most sophisticated masterpieces ever written, on a violin valued at 3.5 million dollars. Yet, during the 45 minutes he played, a mere six people stopped to listen. This experiment, which was arranged by the Washington Post, is a stark reminder of how easy it is for us to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and forget to appreciate the beauty in life.
Rushing Through the Present, Moving into the Future
It was Groucho Marx who said: “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
We don’t really have the assurance of a long life. I don’t know if I have 10, 20, or 30 more years, or what will happen tomorrow. We live such busy and complicated lives, that we miss out on so much beauty and wonder all around us. What we really need to do is appreciate every moment God gives us on this earth. We shouldn’t rush through the present while we move into the future.
Of course, it’s very easy for me to say that, but very difficult to live out:
- How many moments do we miss because we rush past them?
- What about those times we miss with our children or grandchildren because we are in a hurry?
- How many opportunities do we miss to encourage others because we are running late?
We need to learn to slow down and appreciate every moment that we are given, because life is short. We sometimes say, We should stop and smell the roses. H.G. Wells once said: “We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.”
Jesus Never Seemed to Be in a Hurry
As we study Jesus’ life I am amazed that he never seemed to be in a hurry. Although he was doing the most important job in history—redeeming the world—and although he knew he only had a few years to do it, he never ran. He made time to consider the flowers and the birds of the air. He had time to put his hands on the little children and bless them. Time was his friend. Each moment had purpose and he lived in the present time and valued every opportunity.
I like the words of C. S. Lewis: “The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”
I have quoted Psalm 90:12 before, God’s word through his servant Moses: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Here is God’s perspective of time, which is much better than our own—something we should always keep in mind.
Lessons from Disaster
Thomas Edison’s laboratory was virtually destroyed by fire in December 1914. Although the damage exceeded two million dollars, the buildings were only insured for $238,000 because they were made of concrete and thought to be fireproof. Much of Edison’s life’s work went up in spectacular flames that December night.
At the height of the fire, Edison’s 24-year-old son, Charles, frantically searched for his father among the smoke and debris. He finally found him, calmly watching the scene, his face glowing in the reflection, his white hair blowing in the wind. “My heart ached for him,” said Charles. “He was 67—no longer a young man—and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, “Charles, where’s your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, “Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.”
The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver his first working phonograph.”
(Great Value in Disaster, Brian Cavanaugh, as published in A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Canfield/Hansen/Hansen, eds. HCI 1996, p. 124-5)