Days of Dust (part 1): The God of Ten Thousand Days
Thou art mortal
When a victorious Roman general returned from war, he was paraded down the Eternal City’s main thoroughfare. Flanked on both sides by cheering crowds, the hero could easily drown in a sea of glory. However, just on the fringe of the spectators’ sights, a servant stood behind the general and whispered softly, “Remember, thou are mortal.”
The specter of death looms close to mortals. Some strive ardently to avoid this fate while others refuse to look this promise in the eye. A living appreciation of today cannot be grasped, however, apart from the consideration of death.
The span of life is a radiant flair, shining brilliantly but briefly. Political philosopher Thomas Hobbes describes man’s existence as “nasty, brutish, and short.” Though day-to-day matters give our being a façade of longevity, fatality stands behind each person, softly stating, “Remember, thou art mortal.”
Biblical writers likened the scope of life to a passing mist or a fading flower. Picking up the former, James writes, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Though vapor serenely rises from the water’s surface, the afternoon sun quickly scatters it.
King David expands on this idea when he writes, “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:15-16). While a flowery bouquet may lend vibrancy to a home, the colorful bundle rapidly loses its luster. “The grass withers and the flowers fall,” writes Isaiah, “but the Word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). In the midst of our collective mortality, there stands one whom death cannot grasp.
Numbered stars and endless days
Eternity’s ageless expanse bends and breaks our understanding. While we stare down that endless corridor, God effortlessly walks from one end to the other. In a prayer to the Lord, Moses writes, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day gone by, or like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4).
This unending lifespan clothes our Father with wisdom and power. From his eternal hand flows life and being. “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens,” Isaiah writes, “who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls the each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).
Rising from the dust
When death’s ominous whispers echo in our ears, we can cling to the eternal Father. Though bursting with power and strength, he cares for the common bird and fragile flower (Matthew 6:25-34). In their weakness, he is made strong.
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, humanity that you care for them” (Psalm 8:4)? We who are like the budding flower have not escaped the Father’s endless gaze. “He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). Learning to rightly number our days can teach us how to follow God in the light of our setting suns. As we start to trust the ageless Father, maybe we will learn that he can make a gift of our mortality?