It started as one of those dental horror stories, but it finished in humor. I had a crowned tooth that needed a root canal, but the oral surgeon found it to be cracked and unsalvageable and the whole tooth had to be pulled a week later.
Then came the humor. Lying there with a wad of cotton where one of my grinders had been moments before; the dentist began discussing the options for filling that hole with a bridge, but I stopped her.
Saying, “I think I can adjust to it and anyway I am not going to need these teeth all that much longer.”
She looked startled and later I eavesdropped on her saying, “That was the funniest thing she had ever heard.”
About halfway through Luke’s Gospel Jesus “Set his face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51 & 9:53). Jesus knew what awaited him in Jerusalem, the end of his earthly life but he set resolutely his face toward this completion of his mission.
This past week the nighthawks have been darting about the evening sky, some of the birds have been flocking, the European birches in our front yard are dropping a few leaves.
Our hours of daylight are getting shorter.
You can see and feel the coming change of the seasons. I am beginning to wonder, how many more autumns will I see in this life?
If I can match my grandfather’s lifespan it will be 25 more times.
You may find this humorous but I find it is more useful to set my face toward the shortness of the remaining years on earth than the years already past. It helps me to pay better attention to the things that matter most. It brings me up short when our youth-crazed culture tells me to act like this life goes on forever.
Maybe 25 more autumn changes will I see.
Most all of Jesus’ short earthly life must have been spent under the shadow of Jerusalem, and he knew what waited for him there: a mock trial, rejection by those he came to save, torture, physical death.
Yet I am convicted that Jesus was the most fully alive person to have ever walked the planet. Perhaps this awareness that he was always, “Walking under the shadow of death” kept him not only more faithful, but more acutely alive.
So as I stick my tongue in the gap that still remains among my lower grinders, I wonder: Am I just a fool for not using the available technology?
Was it just that I didn’t want to spend the time going back and forth to Billings? Or is the gap in my lower jaw along with the shortening days and briefly appearing nighthawks a valuable tool.
Jesus chose to set his face toward Jerusalem, for his passion and our blessing. We do not choose our span of years. But I find it more useful to think of how few I may have remaining than how many I have lived.
As this autumn comes on how many more years do you likely have? Can you turn your face toward that reality? Could this help you more fully enjoy God’s gift of this life?
God bless you.
Doug Melius Pastor First Presbyterian of Sheridan.