About Marathons and Eating Elephants (Psalm 90:12)

Any of us who have gone on a vacation with our children remember the most famous travel question of them all:  “Are we there yet?”  I about died laughing at the scene in Shrek 2 where Donkey keeps sticking his head forward in the carriage and continues to ask that question, along with some other antics!

Often in years past we drove to Texas quite a few times with a car full of kids. To help them get a sense of how far we had gone and how far we yet had to go, Diana devised a system of beads on a string wrapped around the passenger side visor. There were 15 sets of four alternating colors of beads, with each bead representing 25 miles (the distance from New Jersey to Dallas equaling 1500 miles). The boys could look at the beads being moved from right to left and at a glance get a sense of where we were, and how much remained.

The Bible gives us a very clear sense of how far our journey is… on the average. It says in Psalm 90, “The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” That is pretty clear, isn’t it? Our lives average about 70-80 years, and the older we get, the more troubles and sorrows we encounter… treacherous journey stuff!

Life is strange. On one hand, it is long, and full of adventures both good and bad. And on the other hand, it is brief, especially in comparison to eternity… and the years just seem to fly by.

The old joke asks, “How do you eat an elephant?”… with the answer being, “one bite at a time!”  And that is how we live life… one day at a time, dealing with each moment at hand to do what is right and with a perspective as to what counts for eternity. We can’t imagine how we will accomplish all we need to do, or how we may survive the trials that have come our way. But like eating the elephant, we handle responsibilities and troubles, one by one.

It helps to have a plan… to live life specifically and intentionally. How do you run a marathon? A step at a time! But there is more to it than even that. You can’t just go out and run 26.2 miles. It takes months of planning and training. For a new runner, it is actually a two to three year process.  “Back in the day” I used to love training for participation in a marathon… picking an event and a date months in advance, and then planning a master program of training full of intermediate goals. It required an incredible amount of discipline and commitment. There were good days and bad days. Injuries and physical challenges. Days when the weather was perfect, but mornings at 5:30 a.m. where it was sub-zero. A plan for such contingencies was indispensable.

That is how our lives need to be lived as well… with a plan that considers the big picture of our lives, and the days and years we may have to serve God and be a blessing to those around us. That same Psalm gives an application to the truth observation as to the normal life span, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  The Hebrew word here for “wisdom” denotes the concept of “skill in living.”

Let me ask you this question. Do you have a plan as to where you will be and what you will be doing five years from today? Ten years from today? Do you have personal goals for that time… and/or goals relating to family or others for whom you have responsibility? To have such plans and goals is to live responsibly, especially as one frames those plans with a view toward the place we have within the story God is writing.

Indeed, This Christian Life is exciting, but the journey is surely a treacherous one as well.