Psalm 90:12 New International Version (NIV)
12 Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 has inspired me to write a story called The Stranger, the Hourglass, and the Decision. This is my first attempt to write a Christian allegory about our mortality and the brevity of life. The stranger is a messenger of God in the form of an angel, the hourglass is our mortality and journey through time on this earth, and the decision is our willingness to surrender all to Christ. What you are reading in this post is just the beginning of the story, and I have decided that I will make this a separate project from my blog post. If you would like to provide feedback or continue to read the story as it is developed, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you what I have developed thus far.
The Stranger, the Hourglass, and the Decision
Ava’s eyes flicker at the sound of her iPhone alarm blasting its synthesized ring tone into the quiet, dark room. She joyfully whispers, “Oh, how I love that alarm.” Her hands fumble for the phone on the nightstand and lifting it close to her eyes she squints to check the time. The numbers on the bright screen remind her that she sets the alarm at 6:00 a.m. every morning, and she eagerly welcomes this daily ritual. Though she is snuggled in a warm cocoon, the day is beckoning, and she must not ignore its call. The gift she received from the stranger who knocked on her door 62 days, 19 hours and 58 minutes ago has forever altered her response to the sound of the alarm once she discovered the purpose of the gift. There is no time to waste, so she swings her legs over the side of the bed to position her feet on the floor with a readiness to begin the day’s journey. She mumbles under her breath, “Today is Monday, July 16, 2018.”
The hallway stairs are dark, so once again her iPhone flashlight guides her feet down the stairs into the kitchen. She turns on the light above the coffee bar, picks up a pen from the counter and writes on her refrigerator to-do list:
#12. Do something about the hole in the stairway ceiling. Buy a light, any light and get it installed. 😊
Ava walks away from the list with a smile on her face and a feeling of closure about this hole in the wall situation. No more complaining about the 13-foot ceiling and the position of the hole over the stairway and how it is very dangerous to install a light in that ceiling hole. Ever since the stranger knocked on her door and gave her the gift, she has learned how to manage her schedule, her to-do list and her responsibilities in a different way. Don’t sweat the small stuff is no longer a cliché written on a plaque on her wall. Ava now lives and breathes this motto.
The morning the stranger knocked on her door was timely, as if it was destined to occur at that exact moment. It was 10:02 a.m. on Monday, May 14th. Ava was upstairs at her desk with her hand positioned on the mouse to perfectly align a colorful chart in a financial report. As she was focusing on the screen, memories were flooding her mind of earlier days when she was able to Facetime with her mother and sister, have a conversation with them and see their familiar faces. Her watery eyes started to interfere with her attempt to align the chart. It was at this moment when she heard the tap, tap, tap on the front door. Instinctively, she glanced at the computer’s clock, noted the time and then lost concentration on the screen and thought, “Who could be visiting me at this time of the day?”
Eager for the disruption from her sad thoughts, she wiped the tears from her face, jumped out of her chair and headed for the stairs. As her legs built up speed down the stairway, she thought how easy it would be to fall on the landing and bash her head against the wall, but she was inclined to keep her body in perpetual motion. She took a big leap off the last step and slid across the wood floor towards the door.
Cautiously, Ava opened the door and there he was. A bald man standing at least 8 inches shorter than her, smiling from ear to ear, dressed in an iridescent purple trench coat with a very white bow tie and holding a two-foot-tall hour glass. He said, “Greetings my fair lady.”
Ava’s eyes were riveted to the bulbs of the hourglass, so she didn’t take time to study his face and comment on his peculiar greeting. The two glass bulbs were connected vertically by an extremely narrow neck. So narrow that it looked like it was the size of a small needle. The top bulb was completely full of small specks of sand; however, the bottom bulb was completely empty.
Ava asked the man, “Is the neck too narrow for the sand in the top bulb to trickle down into the bottom bulb?”
He answered a bit relieved, “Bravo! Thank you for asking that question my fair lady!”
She laughed and said with amusement, “Why are you thanking me for asking an obvious question?’
The man explained, “Only those who are concerned about the very narrow neck are ready to receive the gift.”
She then asked him, “Why must someone be ready to receive the gift?”
He looked at her intentionally and continued to explain, “God has heard your prayers for receiving clarity and wisdom about your purpose in the remaining years of your life. God has seen your tears and felt your pain as you grieve the loss of your sister, your mother, your husband and your dog.” He then shook his head and said, “So much loss in such a short time. God is ready to give you the gift of time.”
“Sir. How will the hourglass give me the gift of time?”
He replied, “By taking it away.”
With alarm and concern Ava asked, “And…how will it take…it away?”
He put the hourglass in her hands saying, “In time, my fair lady, you will understand the purpose of the hourglass.” He then handed her a scroll rolled up with a very old, worn out string and said, “Please read as soon as possible. Remember, you are a child of God and fear will not be your master.”
As he disappeared from her sight, she trembled with excitement and fear and asked herself, “Did that just happen?”
Holding the hourglass carefully with both hands, she shut the door with her right foot and then turned to scan the room and thought, “Ummm, where shall I put this?” She realized it didn’t match the décor of her open concept room and was tempted to hide this somewhat-obnoxious-looking contraption. Then she remembered his words, “Please read the scroll as soon as possible.”
Placing the hourglass on the floor, she gingerly untied the old brittle strings and unraveled the scroll. The words were displayed in a delicate and ancient looking font. The letter began:
My Dearest Ava,
I have heard your cries and have seen your tears. The moisture from your eyes has ascended to heaven and has saturated the petals of the flower that bears your name and is waiting for you. Only the tears that flow from grief can cover the petals of this flower. Prior to this year you did not understand grief, and you were detached from the pain and cries of others who were devastated by the loss of a spouse, a child, a family member or the debilitating pain caused by a physical disability. Your eyes were dry. But now your soul has ripened from the pain you have experienced. You are ready my dear child. You are ready to live the life you were meant to live and die the death that will set you free.
Now that you have received this letter it is critical that you follow the instructions with the greatest of care.
- Place the hourglass in a prominent place in your room.
- You’ll notice that the trickle of the sand from the top bulb through the neck to the bottom bulb has not begun. It is your willingness to have the trickle begin that will start the flow. Without this willingness, the bottom bulb will remain empty.
- A prayer of Moses was recorded in the Bible in the book of Psalm chapter 90 verse 12. Moses said, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Well my dearest daughter, this hourglass will teach you to number your days.
- Remember, you will know when you have the willingness to start the flow from one bulb to another when the trickle begins.
Your messenger from heaven
Ava was strangely gripped with excitement at the alarming words she just read. “You will know when you are willing when the trickle begins.” She pondered, “Why must I have a willingness for the flow to begin?” “Who is this stranger, and will I see him again?” Then Ava started looking around for hidden cameras and said to herself jokingly, “Am I being secretly filmed for some reality show?”
She immediately removed all the nick knacks from her coffee table and carefully placed the hourglass in the center. Then she cautiously moved backwards while groping for the edge of the couch and sat down without taking her eyes off the bulbs.
Ava opens the coffee box positioned under the Keurig coffee maker, scans the rows of colorful pods and decides on the organic dark roast. As the coffee is dripping into her favorite teal mug, she glances across the room at the hourglass that has been sitting on her coffee table for less than 24 hours. Her attention is drawn back to her iPhone that is sitting face up on the counter and the calendar icon is displaying Tuesday, May 15, 2018. She chuckles at the thought of the stranger’s ridiculous outfit and charming greeting, but ponders over his intriguing words, “You will know when you have the willingness to start the flow from one bulb to another when the trickle begins.”
Hastily she grabs her coffee mug before the Keurig is finished, walks over to the couch, sits down on the soft cushion and stares at the hourglass in silence for a while as her head is tilted sideways with a quizzical look on her face.
Breaking the silence, she speaks abruptly, “Why would I want or need to have the top bulb start flowing into the bottom bulb? This is the most absurd gift I have ever been given by a most peculiar man. I’m too busy to solve a silly mystery right now in my life.”
The letter the stranger gave her lies open next to the hourglass and her eyes focus on the beautiful description of her tears of grief ascending into heaven to cover the petals of a flower that is waiting just for her. She whispers, “Oh how I wish this was true.”
Ava begins to cry as she feels a massive wave of sorrow wash over her. Grief has taken residence in every cell of her body, and she has become the walking and breathing definition of grief. Within the last four months her losses came fast and furious. First it was the death of her sister. One month later it was her divorce that ended a 24-year marriage. Then the next week it was the euthanizing of her dog. One week later it was the move to a new city into a new house. Two months later it was the death of her mother. She now feels a natural affinity to Job, the man the Bible describes as the one who lost everything.
To be continued……