How we live is far more important than how long we live

This is an important month for my family. Three of the five of us were born in September. Mine will be the last of the three birthdays as I celebrate another year of life tomorrow.

The psalmist said that "We live for seventy years or so and with luck we might make it to eighty" and then he adds, "Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!" (Psalm 90:10, 12, The Message).

I am a couple of years from that seventy mark, but I understand the wisdom of "numbering our days." It is foolish to only check months and years off the calendar and not be intentional about the quality of those years and how we use them. How we live is far more important than how long we live.

It is my intention to never get old but I don't mind getting older. I am convinced that getting old has nothing to do with chronology; it is a matter of attitude.

I claim Caleb as my patron saint. During the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, as they came to the border of the Promised Land Moses sent twelve men out to survey the situation. Although they saw that the land was rich as they had been promised, ten of them came back with a negative report that focused on the obstacles and difficulties. Caleb and Joshua gave a different report. They saw everything that the others had seen but they encouraged the people to trust God and not fear.

The people accepted the majority report and the result was 40 years of pilgrimage before they occupied the land. When the time came to divide the land Caleb had first choice. He could have chosen the fertile Jordan Valley and enjoyed a life of ease. Instead he said: "I was forty years old when Moses sent me to spy out the land. And I brought back an honest and accurate report. Today I am eighty-five years old! I'm as strong as I was the day Moses sent me out. So give me this hill country that God promised me although the giants are there with their great fortress cities. If God goes with me, I will drive them out, just as God said" (Joshua 14:5-7).

You got to love that spirit.

I don't claim to be Caleb but I do want to embrace life with all its challenges and opportunities. There is no way to know how many more years I have left but I intend to live until I die. The poem Building Bridges captures my goal for my remaining years:

An old man going a long highway

Came at the evening cold and gray

To a chasm vast and deep and wide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim,

The sullen stream had no fear for him.

But he stopped when safe on the other side

And built a bridge to stem the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,

You're wasting your strength with building here.

Your journey will end with the ending day.

You never again will pass this way.

You've passed the chasm deep and wide.

Why build you this bridge at eventide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head.

"Good friend, in the path I have come he said,

There followeth after me today

A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm which has been naught to me

To that fair haired youth might a pitfall be.

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him."

Jamie Jenkins

Reposted with permission from