Deadline or Lifeline?


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 90; 149, Isaiah 10:20-27, Jude 17-25, Luke 3:1-9

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
– Psalm 90:12

Many people claim “I do my best work under pressure.” More often than not this actually means “I do my work only under pressure.” Sometimes a deadline can help us sort out competing priorities. If a project overwhelms us and we are spinning our wheels, a looming deadline can force us to find the necessary traction to make decisions and lurch forward. Other times we meet a deadline – such as a bill payment, a task at work, or Christmas shopping – because we don’t want to reap unpleasant consequences. Whatever the reasons, deadlines motivate us to action.

The author of Psalm 90 acknowledges our need to be motivated by a sense of limited time. For this psalmist, wisdom is more than the experience of accumulated years: it is also the acute awareness that these years are finitely numbered. Many people avoid “putting their affairs in order” until they experience a health scare or receive a terminal diagnosis. Others wake up one day to realize their children are adults and wonder how they could have missed sharing so much childhood. And what percentage of the world’s diets are scheduled to start “tomorrow?” When we convince ourselves we have forever – possibly because we are uncomfortable with confronting mortality – what we end up with is never.

During Advent we are called to gain wisdom in our hearts by focusing on some spiritual deadlines: the arrival of Christ (in the past, present and future); the passing of the world as we know it to make room for the realm of God; our own eventual passing. At first they might seem like disturbing things to contemplate, but they also liberate us to decide what we will, what we won’t, and what we need to accomplish with our lives. They can stir us from complacency to determination, from inertia to action, and from despair to hope for the future. Leo Kennedy said: “The surest way to be late is to have plenty of time.”

Sometimes a deadline is a lifeline.

Comfort: Time limits are not oppressive, but liberating..

Challenge: Before Advent ends – or at the latest before this year ends – select three tasks you have been putting off. Explore why you haven’t completed them, then do them.

Prayer: God of Hope, help me gain a heart of wisdom. Amen.

Discussion: When do you procrastinate, and why?

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