It’s just one day before Annie’s birthday and we are down in Hayes, London (Annie’s hometown). And in roughly 10 minutes we will be leaving for a celebratory meal. As I write this Annie has gone on her way to surprise our lovely niece, Tabitha, by picking her up from school.
We arrived in Hayes last night after driving down in the early evening. It was a trip that we have travelled often and always enjoy. I was just praying that Annie would sustain the discomfort of the car (and my driving!) I can confidently say that my prayer was answered. If you ever have a long road trip ahead of you and you’re bored with your iPod playlist or CDs then just give Annie a call. She definitely knows how to in-car entertain. She had us both singing, reminiscing and laughing every mile of the journey. You’d pay good money to be a back seat passenger in our trips down to Hayes.
We both slept really well last night. And this time I awoke before Annie and gave her the alarm clock kiss on the cheek.
…I can hear that Annie is back and so I will continue this entry later on…
* * * interlude * * *
Well, what a lovely night! Annie’s hometown is right next to Heathrow airport which might not sound like the tranquil setting for such an evening but one of the great advantages is that there are plenty of really nice hotels nearby. We just had our birthday meal at the Radisson Edwardian. I felt a little bit under-dressed (not that I’ve ever been over-dressed for any occasion other than my wedding!). In fact, if I wore a top-hat and tails I would have still felt a little underdressed at this hotel; aesthetically speaking it was a magnificent building inside and out and looked all the prettier for the – somewhat premature but welcomed – Christmas trees, wreaths and decorations adorning the entrances!
Birthday’s are great times and I am really pleased and so thankful that we have been able to reach and celebrate Annie’s 35th (albeit one day early) together. In the summer we met some really good friends from the Czech Republic who were shocked that we only celebrate the one birthday a year. We found out that every person in the Czech Republic (and in many countries in Eastern Europe) is entitled to not one but two self-celebrations a year: they celebrate their birthday and they celebrate their birth name day as well, at some other point in the year. Wouldn’t that be nice to get the special treatment two days a year!? Our Czech friends were a bit sad for us Westerners having to wait one whole year before we could self-celebrate!
We often use the year as our common basic unit for celebrating, working and planning. In the past, Annie and I have often found ourselves talking about mundane things like little DIY and maintenance projects around our home and confidently concurring ‘Next year we should probably do something about that.’
Terminal illnesses cause you to trade in your time currency for much smaller units than years. But we’re not feeling shortchanged. In fact, in many ways we experience more blessing for it.
Each day, God is teaching us the importance and blessing of working with and cherishing the basic life-time currency of just one day.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. – Psalm 90:12
Here’s two of those blessings in particular.
1. It helps us to recognise God’s sovereignty and experience the peace which follows that recognition
Facing your own (or your loved one’s) mortality in your mid thirties feels unnatural. I remember how weird it was 4 years ago when Annie and I were suddenly having to talk about things that you would normally file away for future, post-retirement discussion over a cream tea and scone at some english national trust tea-house.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. – Psalm 139:16
Our God knows precisely how long we will sojourn on this earth. According to His Word, He allots that time in the unit of days, not years – even though we may have many years. It gives us great peace to know that neither Annie or I will exit this planet to God’s surprise or shock. We are confident that neither of us will depart one day later or one day sooner than our Father has planned. Why? Because He has the exact number in days written down!
How we exit and when we exit may shock, stun and upset those of us on earth, but not God. And when those trying moments come when Annie is having a bad day or a bad night, I know God wants me to remember and recall this: ‘Don’t worry, don’t panic…all Annie’s days are in My hands – I am in control.’
2. It increases our appetite for heaven and eagerness for Jesus’ return
As followers of Jesus, we are His children and our death is simply our Heavenly Father saying “Now is the perfect time for you to come home!”
As Christians, this world – with all its houses, hotels, cash ISAs, insurance policies, pension plans, Playstations, iPads, HDTVs, motorways, multi-storey car parks, hospitals, 4x4s and grocery stores… – is not our home. Ultimately we don’t belong here. Ask any of Jesus’ original disciples what they had learned from Him about their status on this earth and Peter would jump up first and tell you: “We’re just aliens and strangers! Temporary residents and foreigners!”
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. – Philippians 3:17-21
Living day-by-day rather than year-by-year makes us more eager for our Saviour from heaven and more urgent to point others to Him. I mean, would a follower of Jesus really sound eager if they said: “Come Lord Jesus, Come…when we’ve got the kids through college and had time to build and enjoy that extension we’ve always talked about!”? As we flicked on the news this evening and heard about the massive economic unrest in Europe, Annie and I said it again “We just can’t wait for Jesus to return!”
We don’t have a bucket list of things we want to do and places we want to see before we die or before Jesus returns. We want to take each day as another gift from God and seek to use it to enjoy Jesus and share Him with whoever we meet. Each day that passes, is another day closer to Jesus return; another day closer to heaven; another day closer to home.
Never underestimate the blessing and significance of just one day.
Thank you Jesus for this day.