Several weeks ago a friend said to me: “Oh, you’ve got a big birthday coming up!”
A “big” birthday is typically one ending in zero or five. A zero means that we’re beginning or ending another decade of life. A five means that we’re half way through another decade of life.
I turned 75 in March. My mother died at age 72. My father at age 75, just like my sister, Margie. My sister, Helen, died at age 80. My brother, Bill, is 78 and in robust good health.
Unlike other families that have parents and grandparents living into their 90s and 100s, my family hasn’t done that. It seems that we’re closer to the Biblical passage that says: “Seventy is the sum of our years, or 80 if we are strong.”
We as a society have been able to extend life expectation due to good nutrition and access to medical care. In the not so distant past, failure of a crop or in a hunt could literally lead to starvation. Sadly, parts of the developing world still live without a ready supply of food.
Our culture spends a lot of time talking about diet and exercise. I used to jog a lot in my younger days. Now I walk. We have a wonderful cook at the cathedral rectory, and yet I still manage to supplement my healthy diet with too many Berger cookies. And, perhaps, too much wine.
Wine is one thing easy to rationalize. Various studies show some physical benefits to wine. Jesus drank wine. When I mentioned Jesus drinking to an abolitionist pastor years ago, he replied: “Yes, but I would have thought more of Jesus if he hadn’t.”
In truth, life is not about how long we live, but how well we live. Often we forget that we come from God, and go back to God. Think of all the young lives lost in all of our wars, and lost daily in all of our major cities. When we forget we are made in the image and likeness of God, then we also forget how to honor that image in all the people we meet.
To requote one of my favorite formulas: “The more inadequate we feel, the more anxious we will feel, and the more hostile we will behave.”
We need to come back to seeing ourselves as created in the image and likeness of God. When we believe that we are made of the “stuff” of God, then we have the power to co-create our world again in God’s likeness. Our time is limited. Our love is not.