Dog Years…and the Perils of Waiting

I always thought I would become more patient as I aged. Sadly, though, the opposite has been true.

Instead of enjoying life under a palm tree somewhere, I find myself racing against the clock to complete all the unfulfilled dreams God has put inside me. Like a sports team desperate to score more points in the fourth quarter of a game, I’ve been watching the clock and endeavoring to “run my best plays” until the final buzzer sounds.

I recently realized that my state of mind is a lot like living in “dog years.” It’s commonly said that every year a dog lives is like seven years for a human. But as a person approaches the sunset of life, it seems as if dog years and people years begin to run at a similar pace.

For those in the final quarter of life, every year passes by more rapidly than the one before. Every moment is precious, and there’s no time to waste.

I don’t know how old Moses was when he realized this profound truth: Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NLT). But I find myself, like him, pleading for more of God’s wisdom as I number my days and recognize the brevity of life.

Not long ago, a friend of mine experienced a practical example of the “dog years” mindset. His marriage came to a sudden end when his wife left him for another man. It turned out that the affair had already lasted for several years when this breakup occurred, and the split was very quick and final when it finally came about.

My friend was around sixty years old, and he was eager to rebuild his life with a new wife of the Lord’s choosing. Yet he found that, under the laws of his state, there was a one-year waiting period before a divorce could be legally finalized. This seemed to him like an unfair and unbearably long period under the circumstances.

The problem, I think, is that my friend was living in the “dog years” of his life. From that perspective, a one-year wait seems like at least seven years.

Ironically, seven years is exactly the length of time Jacob had to work and wait in order to marry his beloved Rachel. But you can imagine my friend’s reaction when I tried to explain this illustration to him. “I don’t know how old Jacob was when he had to wait seven years,” my friend said, irritated at my example, “but when you’re 60+ years old, a seven-year wait would seem like an eternity.”

Yes, my friend was viewing his situation in dog years. Waiting can be agonizing when you feel like the clock is ticking.

Although I am sympathetic to my friend’s dilemma, I also recognize the virtues of learning to wait on God’s timing. While Moses spoke of the urgency caused by the brevity of life, David frequently pointed out that God won’t disappoint those who wait upon Him:

“None of those who wait for You will be ashamed…Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day (Psalm 25:3-5)

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

So, what are YOU waiting for? If your waiting is mere laziness or procrastination, it’s time to get moving again. But if you are sincerely waiting on the Lord and listening for His direction, a wonderful outcome is ahead for you.

And if you fear that your waiting period will be measured in dog years, there’s good news in the story of Jacob’s wait for Rachel: Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:20).

Isn’t that cool? When your eyes are on the Lord, He can help your wait seem like mere moments.