I've been reading in the Psalms lately and this morning it was Psalm 39 which bears the title of this post. After a ridiculously busy couple of months leading up to Christmas, I had the good fortune of being off work for over two weeks while my kids were also off school and all extracurricular activities ceased. Even though there was some illness in the family during that time, the relaxation and refreshment we experienced was in a word...glorious.
But now we're all back to our regular routines and after opening the 100+ emails waiting for me at work I began to feel that familiar quickening of my heartbeat that tends to warn of incoming stress. It doesn't take long to revert does it?
One of the wonderful things I did with the extra time off was read more. Including a terrific new book by Kevin DeYoung called "Crazy Busy." The subtitle is even better, "A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem." It made good on it's promise and WAS short (only ten chapters) therefore not a very time consuming read, but it packed a lot of substance into those pages and helped prepare me to respond differently when the quickening heartbeat came the following week.
Another help was a recent post I read on the Desiring God blog www.desiringgod.org called "How to Clear the Clutter in Your Life" by Jonathan Parnell. Ironically it was written November 24th and the title intrigued me so I saved it to be read at a later date. It took me over a month to get around to it. He shared the analogy of the dining room table being cluttered with so many things it's difficult to clear for the purpose it should serve (eating a meal). He may have been to my house one day when I wasn't home.
He took a cue from 2 Corinthians 5:9 and basically boiled the task of clearing the clutter down to one thing - make it your aim to please God. This was practically done by mentally inquiring "Does this please you Lord?" before adding or removing items, tasks, stuff, relationships, whatever from the surface of our life's table. Okay...well he didn't put it that way in the post, but that's how I took it. It's a helpful question because it reorients me to the main thing. Am I glorifying God?
As God often does, these themed messages tend to come to me in threes, and that was the case again this morning as I was reading Psalm 39, verse four:
"O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!" That cuts to the chase, huh? Twice in subsequent verses the scripture says "all mankind stands as a mere breath!" and then the word "Selah" follows which is often interpreted as "pause, and calmly think about that." I don't think God repeats himself in the Bible unless He wants to draw closer attention to the point.
Our life here is so fleeting. It's a few handbreadths (four fingers), a vapor, a mist, a shadow. I'm sojourning here, a guest like all my fathers (verse 12) and I need to remember this when I get crazy busy because it clears the table really quick. All I need to accomplish, all I really need to do is consider the measure of my days and ask "Does this please you Lord?"
One qualification though about what that question doesn't mean - this is taken from the blog post referenced above...
"Our aim in life is to please Jesus. That is the ambition of our every day, our every decision. Does Jesus take delight in this? Which, to be sure, has no determining function in our righteous status as God’s children. By faith alone, in Christ alone, because of grace alone, we are brought into Christ, justified in him, saved from God’s wrath, made his children forever (Ephesians 2:5–8; Romans 3:23–24; John 1:12–13; Romans 5:9). Don’t mistake “please” to mean placate, or appease, or propitiate. That work has been taken care of. We’re talking about joy, about delight — about pleasure, which Wayne Grudem calls an “essential component of any genuine personal relationship” (For the Fame of God’s Name, 279)."
I had some great joy over Christmas break just resting. I think maybe God took some joy in my rest. But now that I'm back in the swing of things, it seems knowing the brevity of my life can truly keep me from wasting time in turmoil trying to please everyone but my Father in heaven.