Numbering our days
I recently turned 50 and for my birthday my wife and three teenage daughters presented me with a large album filled with photos and messages from the people who have been significant in each decade of my life. There were photos and messages from the children I played with when I was growing up in Australia, the pastor of the church I attended while studying at university in England, and the couples my wife and I counted as friends in Scotland. This unique birthday gift reminded me just what a privilege it has been living every decade of my life in a different country; the first ten years in Australia, the second in England, the third in Germany and China, the fourth in Scotland, and the fifth here in Canada. As I flipped the pages of the album and arrived at the section devoted to the latest decade, I was excited to read the messages penned by the Briercrest TESOL alumni now teaching English all over the globe.
This wonderfully creative gift brought to mind one of my favourite Scripture verses: “Teach us to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NIV). In our youth we see more days ahead of us than behind us so the idea of numbering our days can seem less compelling. But the psalmist reminds us of a sobering fact that is as true today as it was then: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty if our strength endures” (v. 10). Looking back on the past fifty years I feel that every decade, the one in China teaching English at universities, the one in Scotland teaching at a university and serving in a church, and the one here at Briercrest training students to be competent and confident English language teachers, has been used well because each one was used for more than just my family and I.
But just when we might be tempted to pat ourselves on the back, the Lord gently reminds us how small a role we’ve actually played in bringing His grand scheme for our lives into being. Sandra and I had no real notion of what to expect when we moved with our three young girls from Dundee, Scotland to Caronport, Saskatchewan 11 years ago. Although we were aware of Briercrest’s heritage, Caronport seemed to us to be a highly unlikely place to reach the world. Needless to say, our move here was driven more by obedience than by insight or vision. But as we very quickly saw the Lord beginning to use the TESOL program to open pathways of influence from Caronport to the nations of the world, we began to realize we had been a bit like Nathaniel who, when he was told of the plans of God, responded “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46). We soon began to see countries not typically known for welcoming foreigners suddenly inviting our TESOL alumni to live and teach there (invitations that they eagerly accepted). We even began to see the nations coming to Saskatchewan. A surge in the number of immigrants and refugees served to create opportunities for our alumni to teach in local immigrant centres, colleges, and universities so fulfilling the Lord’s command for us to love the sojourners in the land (Leviticus 19:33-34). The Lord has continually reminded us that what he has been doing this decade is actually because of the TESOL alumni who themselves chose to number their days and to surrender their skills in service to the Lord wherever He took them.
Perhaps birthdays are simply a reminder to you that the years are ticking inexorably by. Why wait until your next birthday? Choose today to make the next 10 years – if they are gifted to you – a decade of yet greater service to the Lord. You might not be able to picture what the next decade will look like but imagine opening the album 10 years from now and seeing the photos and reading the messages from people doing significant things for the Lord because, like Paul, you were obedient to the heavenly call (Acts 26:19).