Published on September 24, 2021

Woman autumn view

Thoughts at the Turn of Autumn

Psalm 90 is described as “A Prayer of Moses.” Many scholars consider it to be the oldest of all the psalms. The ancient words in verse 12, still resonate with our modern experience – especially now as the summer turns to fall: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV). 

The cooler fall evenings invite a quieter, more retrospective use of our time. I have always thought of fall as a good time for reflecting on how quickly another year has slipped by. What have we learned through the seasons of winter, spring, and summer? The wisdom of the psalmist turns our thoughts heavenward, with a profound and powerful prayer.

First it expresses a will to learn and be taught. “Teach us.”

Secondly, it recognizes how so many things are learned together, in community, “Teach us,” affirming the strength that is found in approaching life’s situations together.

Then comes the words, “to number.” Autumn is an excellent time to take stock; in essence to calculate our life’s “assets” and assess “losses,” and to count both the cost and the benefits. Gardeners dig up the potatoes and pull up the carrots and gather the last few tomatoes from the bedraggled vines. Fall has come, and with it the preparation for winter – teach us, O Lord, to number those things that are most important. We pull our jackets around us against the cooler weather, and we pull those things we love closer, too.

“Teach us to number our days.” Reminds us that it is the days that count. It’s the time we have that matters – and not just the hours in our day, but what we do with every bit of it. We can savor the long evenings of autumn with the same joy as a day spent in the sun. Numbering our days means to simply pay attention to what matters most. How do we answer the question posed by poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

On Wednesday of this week, the autumnal equinox arrived announcing the start of lower temperatures and longer evenings. As you welcome the autumn by pulling out your favorite sweater, take stock of what matters most. Seek the spirit of the Divine Teacher, who – in guiding us in the numbering of our days – enables us to gain a heart of wisdom.

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