What ‘The Days Are Long But the Years Are Short’ Really Means

Ever since I became a parent I frequently hear how time flies with kids and how one day I’ll blink and my kids will be moving out, getting married and start having families of their own.

I’m also reminded that the days are long but the years are short.

Like when that sweet older mother you ran into at the grocery store, pushing a rather empty cart, looks over at you and your chaotic tribe with adoring eyes. She tells you to enjoy that tantrum in the store because when they’re teenagers you’ll be wishing all you were worried about was teaching them to manage their emotions in aisle six. And if she’s feeling really nostalgic, she’ll go on to explain how when they move out someday, you’ll be wishing for crazy bedtime bribery again.

As she slowly starts pushing her cart down the aisle away from you and your munchkins, she bids you farewell by saying a phrase we hear often as young parents: the days are long but the years are short.

Depending on how overwhelmed you feel in that moment, you may find these, “The days are long but the years are short” words encouraging as you breathe and navigate the tantrum with more ease than before, or you may quietly be ripping that sweet old lady’s head off while trying to wrangle your kid to get in the basket.

Yes, today was a long day for you for sure.

When we hear the phrase the days are long but the years are short, most of us easily get why the days are long. Being at work all day with stressful clients, followed by a frustrating drive to pick up your kids from daycare or school, followed by an evening full of meeting the rest of life’s demands, can make a day seem certainly long. Or maybe your day is filled with the demands of your threenager and newborn and more times than you care to admit, you are just waiting for the day to be over (I feel you!).

But what about the years are short part?

I used to think the years flew by because we’re such a busy society always in motion. We live a life where busy is king and productivity is lucrative. Our schedules are filled to the brim with busy from sun up until sun down, and then some. And we’re talking real busy.

You’ve got a presentation to give at the end of the week and after the kids are in bed, you need to stay up late to finalize the details and get up early the next day so you can meet your colleague to go over the project. Or you’ve got a busy day that includes day three of potty training with your toddler (can definitely say this is when the days are long but the years are short felt so true), day one of starting solids with your baby, followed by a trip to the library and then the grocery store and probably a quick run to Target for those pull-ups you forgot to buy when you were there yesterday. Or maybe you’ve got a day that includes both of these kinds of busy!

But what if being busy is only part of the short year equation?

Do you ever feel like we’re constantly waiting for that next thing? We all wait and work towards the next big thing in our lives–promotions at work, getting married, having kids, buying houses, new cars, big trips, holiday events, etc. But I’m talking about even waiting for the small things too that fill our calendars–for the weekend because we have plans for the pumpkin patch, or next week you have that dinner date with a friend, or the next week your family is coming up to visit, and then it’s the end of the month and that one bill is finally due you forgot about. Time flies when we’re waiting.

I feel like I am constantly looking ahead. I am always excited (or dreading) for the next future thing that’s coming up on my calendar.

My life feels like it’s constantly in motion whether I’m moving through a busy day or waiting for the next busy event to happen in my life.

This constant motion has my heart continuously reaching for ways to work harder not smarter, to find balance in the chaos, to have peace while still being able to do all the things I need to do (or want to do).

And when those long days are done and I’m lying in bed recapping my day, I let my mind wonder and toy with a new idea: what would it look like to live a life a where the days don’t feel overwhelmingly long and the years feel more lasting than vanishing?

I’ve been getting this subtle itch about the uncertainty of my life lately. It starts when I question my parenting skills a little more than usual. It grows when I feel like I’m not doing enough writing. It overflows when I start comparing my life to others and question if what I’m doing even matters.

Maybe you feel it when you come to a crossroads in your job. Maybe you feel it when all that potty training feels like a waste because your kid is going through a regression. For me, it’s been a small series of events in different areas of my life that are unfolding in ways I did not plan.

When things don’t go according to my plan, and the days are long but the years are short really starts to ring true, I start to wonder if I’m messing up somewhere. I question my ability to lean not on my own understanding. As a recovering control addict, feeling uncertain can feel like a nervous breakdown at times. I’m serious.

The other day I was making my way through our local bookstore. As always, I stopped to peruse the Christian Living section. As I scanned the shelves, I felt bombarded with title after title telling me, no, it felt like shouting, they were shouting at me to to chase slow, to be present over perfect, to find joy in little, to throw out all my possessions because less really is more and so on and on and on and on…

And I love it. My soul eats it up because each of these titles speak to a longing in my heart to somehow find a satisfaction in my life that I am otherwise missing.

And I love these authors. I really do. I own many of those titles. I truly believe God uses writers to extend his truth to his people. Clearly I believe this, otherwise I wouldn’t be up at 5:00 AM writing this very article.

Gloryanna Boge
Gloryanna Boge
Gloryanna used to call herself a runner, but now she is a toddler chaser. She married her high school sweetheart who insists that dirty clothes can be left on the floor. She once was a teacher of teenagers and the greatest thing she taught, she stole from S.E.Hinton who said "Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold." She attempts to live this truth by encouraging others with her writing. Catch scribbles of her writing on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

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