When I first told one of mentors that I was interested in pursuing my Doctor of Ministry degree, he immediately stressed several things upon me. For pastors who aren’t going to teach full-time in a seminary, a Doctor of Ministry is usually the last, or terminal, degree we get (but this is starting to change).
The most profound thing he told me? “Don’t let this terminal degree be terminal.” Translation: don’t stop learning. Don’t stop being teachable. Don’t stop growing.
What happens when someone becomes unteachable because they know it all? What’s a person like who simply knows everything there is to know about the subject and doesn’t even have to entertain anyone else’s thoughts on the subject? What are they like?
As we continue in Psalm 90 this week, we find Moses giving a very similar piece of counsel as my mentor did. Let’s read Psalm 90:3-12.
You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
When we remain lifelong learners, we keep the wonder of the moments. We are able to see the world through fresh eyes every morning. Sunsets and sunrises are more strikingly breathtaking. People walking through the mall are humans and not objects to be avoided. We are pilgrims in a journey called existence and we operate in an intentional and purposeful manner to slow down, look up, and show others the hope inside of us.
Mostly, when we “number our days” we keep God in His rightful place: first. There is an active, continuous recognition that these seventy to eighty years on Earth are not all there is. There is a conscious connection to our eternal destiny. When God is first, we can fully understand the words of our Lord’s half-brother, James, who wrote, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
Life—this mortal life—is short. Talk to anyone who is at the seventy to eighty year mark and they can testify to its brisk brevity. But as we continue to “gain a heart of wisdom” we live like what we are: eternal beings with God-shaped holes in our souls.
When the Lord Jesus fills that hole, this life is but a journey. What’s filling your God-shaped hole?
Dear one of the Lord Jesus, take the advice of my mentor, Moses, and countless other witnesses in and out of the Bible: be a life-long learner in those things that matter most.
Oh yeah—you’re all invited to Chicago, Illinois in December 2016 when I graduate. Book early.