An invitation to number our days | Greg Asimakoupoulos

This week I reach a milestone. My birthday cake is entitled to 72 candles.

This week I reach a milestone. My birthday cake is entitled to 72 candles. But given our corporate concern for global warming, my wife will likely only light one solitary wax sentry. And that’s okay. Too many miniature flames make for too much light that in turn exposes too little hair and too many wrinkles.

Given a temporary work assignment in Switzerland, this is the first birthday in those 72 years in which I will celebrate outside of the United States. And truth be told, this opportunity to serve an English-speaking church in Luzern for three months is the best birthday present I could have asked for. Curiously, 36 years ago, my wife and I found ourselves in a similar situation. I was asked to take a temporary assignment in Nome, Alaska. Taking a leave of absence from my congregation in California, I worked for a missionary radio station for a couple months.

Like my current assignment as interim pastor of the International Church of Luzern, working for KICY radio was an unforgettable opportunity to meet new people and explore new parts of God’s green earth for the very first time. And to think that our Alaskan adventure was almost exactly half my life ago! Where has the time gone? That summer assignment in Nome seems but a few short years ago. Mindboggling to be sure!

The Hebrew psalmist declares “Man is like a breath. His days are like a passing shadow.” (Psalm 144:4) St. James put it this way, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

Like a summer day in the Pacific Northwest, 72 seems like the perfect number. Not too hot. Not too cold. It’s just about perfect. But for me it also comes with the candid realization that my days are numbered. If I live as long as my dad did, I only have ten years left. If I live to celebrate the same number of birthdays my mom had, I have just twenty years left.

Speaking of my precious little mom, when it came to birthdays and acknowledging how old she was, she had a signature saying for which she was known. “Age is just a number. And mine is unlisted!” Or like the poster I hung on the wall in my college dorm room “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Wow! Was that really fifty-four years ago? As a freshman I wanted to make every day count. And all these years later, I still do.

Birthdays are an annual occasion to give yourself permission to take stock of the speed at which time flies. In other words, they are an opportunity for “give and take.” Give heed to choices that today offers and take time to evaluate which ones you will choose. Give up trying to undo the past and take control of your future. Give God thanks for achievements you’ve accomplished thus far on life’s journey and take a break to bask in His many blessings.

I’m blown away by the goodness of a Creator who allowed me over the past 72 years to meet such incredible people, travel to such fascinating places, do such a variety of jobs in addition to sharing my wonderful life with my beautiful wife for 42 years and raising three amazing daughters. But I know I am not alone. As you look back on your life to date, you no doubt have blessings too numerous to number as well.

In the only psalm that Moses ever wrote, the Prince of Egypt poignantly prays “Lord, teach us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) It doesn’t take a math major to count our blessings and number our days. It just takes someone who recognizes the bottom line of maximizing one’s life.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is a former chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.