New York Times guest essay writer Tim Urban wrote an article about how we spend time in our lives. He created a graph with circles, each representing a week in the life of someone who would live to 90 years old (see below).
Urban says, “It often feels like we have countless weeks ahead of us. But actually, it’s just a few thousand — a small-enough number to fit neatly in a single image. Once you visualize the human life span, it becomes clear that so many parts of life we think of as ‘countless’ are in fact quite countable.”
For example, if you are 43 years old as I am, you have roughly 2483 weeks left in your life. Say you get together with your family once a year for holidays each year. This means that you will see your family 47 more times. If you spend 3 days together, that means you will spend 141 days together as a family for the rest of your life. Seeing your life this way, every moment counts.
Or let’s say you are a sports fan as is my brother. We like to go to Atlanta Braves games together and usually make it to two per year in person. He is 53 years old. Doing the math, we can see 74 more baseball games together in person in his lifetime. That is less than one season of games.
When seen this way, time as a measurement makes our priorities clear. But we can also look at time going forward. At 43 years old, I have 2483 weeks left to live creatively. I have 2483 weeks left to love my family deeply, serve my community and walk in the Ways of God. How might I best spend those precious weeks?
I encourage you to do the math as a spiritual exercise. Poet Mary Oliver in her poem A Summer Day asks the one question that matters most:
…I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
We are in this together,
Rev. Cameron Trimble
Author of Piloting Church: Helping Your Congregation Take Flight