To wrap up my “phrases” series, which I began back in April thinking it would only last a few weeks, I’m going to end with one I’m ambivalent about. We each only get one life and each day is the only one of its kind. Too often, we take for granted that we’ll have time to carry out the plans and dreams we talk of “someday” doing; if our days are repetitive (as most modern/postmodern ones are), we can lose track of how fast they’re flying by us, we can forget to treasure each one as if it’s our last because some day, it will be (has it already been a month since Robin Williams died?). Carpe diem! say the dreamers (and John Keating). Seize the day while you have a chance because you never know when you won’t get another. A moment of silence for those lost 13 years ago on 9/11 in New York.
The sentiment ‘seize the day’ can engender a sense of gratitude, encouraging each of us to use every day we’re given to the fullest extent we can. Each day, the weeping of night ends, Psalm 30:5 proclaims, and joy comes in the morning. Perhaps this is because God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). Some are weighed down by the ordinary succession of days (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe says a person can stand almost anything but this!) but God renews us with joy like morning dew and a fresh start every new day. It would only make sense, then, to seize it!
On the other hand, this ‘seize the day’ business is a lot of a pressure! Its sense of urgency can be too much for some people. “Seize the day,” they say, but they don’t tell you how. It can also seem to run counter-grain to the Lord’s call to rest: where is the line between gratefully using every day you have and frenzied busyness? “Busy” is the new “fine” and it’s just as toxic to relationships and abundant life. It can create in us this sense of failure that we’re not living up to our potential if we’re not doing something amazing or changing the world every waking moment.
Seizing the day can also be exhausting after a while, depending on how many diems there are to carpe. It sometimes does seem like the Lord is waiting a very, very long time so the prospect of having to fill each of those days (for some, even one can feel like a thousand years) is daunting and discouraging, producing the exact opposite effect that the phrase intends. Seizing the day is not the only way to show gratitude; sometimes, self care and tending to the “just average” things in your life are. Why does God give humanity so many days with which to contend? “Do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Knowing this, that the Lord waits in longing for all to turn to the Everlasting Arms, how then shall we live? To seize the day or not? First, let us remember that the “day” is a creature, too – the first one God made. It may be strange to think of “the day” as a creature just like us but what this means is that all creatures belong to God and are under God, each day as well as each of us. Let us remember as well the rhythm The Teacher in Ecclesiastes 3 presents; there is a time to run and produce and there is a time to rest and restore, a time to create and generate and a time to lay low. Also, God has actually given us instructions for each of these days we have in our lives. “While it is still ‘today,'” let us encourage one another so that none may fall away or be taken with the wiles of sin (Hebrews 3:13). Let us seize the day while it is still today, whether that looks like rallying for change or sending a card to a friend, going out for that long-shot audition or gathering rosebuds.