"What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." – James 4:14b
My dad is now 93 years of age. At 5' 8 ½" I used to look him pretty much in the eye. But not any longer. He has shrunk…a lot. It has been my take on him for many years now that I have been blessed with the fact that he is nearly exactly 25 years older than I. So if I want to see what life is going to look like for me in 25 years, I simply look at my dad.
My dad was doing quite well up until about age 85. He was, for his age, quite strong and very mobile: able to walk briskly, play tennis, and do yard work. But then he had the first of his T.I.A.s – transient ischemic attacks – mini-strokes. My sisters and I happened to be with him when the first one came, on a Sunday morning. We could sense he wasn't right, we could hear the blurred speech, we felt uneasy with him driving his truck (with us all in it) to church. It was not a good day. I think of these TIA mini-strokes as small attacks upon a person's health, sort of a chipping away at who they once were. A little bit here, a little bit there. But over time that person who was once the essence of health appears as a mere shadow of their former self. That's the situation with my dad. And in 25 years…well, we'll have to wait and see what my lot shall be.
It was around the time of that first TIA that my dad started saying, "Getting old really stinks." That has become his regular mantra. The Bible would agree with that assessment. Ecclesiastes 12, maybe clearer than any other place in scripture, describes the descent of life as we move from being those who can, with the Lord's help, "scale a wall" (Psalm 18:29) to being those that, like the grasshopper, drag ourselves along (Ecclesiastes 12:5). Growing old is not for cowards is another of the statements we hear.
But as this all seems quite inevitable, what are we to do about it all?
Here are some suggestions…
1. Stay active physically and mentally. The old line is "use it or lose it." As I said in last week's sermon "it is always easier to do nothing rather than something. Doing nothing is our default position. But avoid this temptation. Make plans to do things and then do them.
2. Avoid being overweight. I know a woman who back in her 20's was probably 150+ pounds overweight. Thirty-five years later she has had a hip replacement, a knee replacement, she walks bent over and uses a cane. If she had been of normal weight back in her 20s she likely would be a much healthier person today. In the 1920s, as a nation we combated alcohol; in the 80s and onward we have combated drugs and tobacco. The challenge moving forward is to combat poor eating habits and overeating.
3. Be mindful that these bodies will not last. Even the most health conscience person on earth is doomed to die. And we have all heard of the cigar smoking, whiskey drinking, sloth who seems to outlive everyone else. It is just how things are (Psalm 73). Be it a healthy lifestyle or one that is horrible, the same fate stands before us all. It is just the way things are. So prepare for eternity. Stay healthy as much as you can but either way prepare for eternity. Put your trust in Christ.