“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
– Psalm 90:12
For years I was not much of a reader. This extended well into adulthood. I read, of course, what was required in school, but not much more, except for newspapers and magazines. But books? I had little interest. It was not that I was incapable, just that sitting still for an extended period of time curled up with a book seemed like an incredible waste of time when I could be doing something else. Maybe I suffered from a little undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. Who knows.
This tidbit may come as a surprise, for most people today know me as a voracious book reader, which I am. I don’t recall exactly when or how I caught the reading bug, except at some point I started reading novels, bestseller types, devouring them, one after another. Eventually, that led to reading out of a desire to learn. Through the years, books have changed my life. If only I had known then what I know now, the amazing power of reading books, and the vast knowledge and wisdom to be attained from them.
Haven’t we all made that same remark about various things in our lives, “if only I had known then what I know now”? Someone once said, if only the young could be old for a day, they would neither fear so much growing old, nor foolishly squander the days of their youth.
Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way (speaking of influential books I have read!) offers a helpful remedy for this common malady. “Write a letter from you at eighty to you at your current age,” she suggests. “What would you tell yourself? What interests would you tell yourself to pursue? What dreams would you encourage?” If only I had done this exercise myself forty or fifty years ago. If only I had known then what I know now.
The Psalmist sums it up this way, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” What do we want to see happen in our lives before we die? What small steps can we take toward that purpose today? And what else can we do to circumvent that all-too-common malady, “If only I had known then what I know now”?