Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Will Not Go Quietly Into the Night

Last year it was my turn.  Yesterday it was Dayna’s turn.  I’m talking about one of those things we have to do as we get older.  I’m talking about the kind of medical test where the doctor shows you post-procedure pictures and uses phrases like “normal signs of age” and “when we get older” a lot.  I’m talking about the good old colonoscopy.  After all, “folks our age” are more susceptible to colon cancer, and the best preventative is the colonoscopy.

But it’s all a little awkward, you know.  The procedure is no big deal really, but the prep is a nightmare.  And when people know it’s happening, nobody’s quite sure just what to say to you. Those who have had one just kind of offer a sheepish grin and a knowing nod.  Others kind of groan a little.  And the younger set sometimes say, “Well, I guess I’m getting close to the age when I’m going to have to do that myself.”  Then there are those who just have to tease you a little about the whole thing.  If it’s prep day someone may say, “Enjoy your day at the pool” or “So Mr. President, you’ll be spending all day in the oval office, I see.”  Har-dee-har-har!

It’s awkward.  And just what do you say to your doctor?  I read a list of comments doctors reported that their patients said about the procedure.  My favorite is this one: “Could you please write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?”  Yeah, it’s a little awkward—way more than “Please open your mouth and say, ‘Ahhhhh,’” about the same as “Turn your head and cough,” but not quite as awkward as when the doctor snaps on a glove, lubricates the finger, and says, “Okay, now bend over and relax.”  (No doubt women have different things to compare it too on the awkward meter.)  None of it is pleasant for either doctor or patient, I suspect, but it’s what we do to try to take care of our bodies and maintain our health—especially for “folks our age.”

And it’s worth it.  The Bible describes the Christian’s body as “God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit lives in you” (1 Cor. 3:16).  It’s wise, important, and even spiritual to take care of the body that houses God’s Spirit.  Personally I find the image of the body being a temple of the Holy Spirit far more appealing that the view espoused by TV chef Anthony Bourdain who recently advised his audience, "Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride."  Playing off that quote, The Week magazine held a contest of its readers asking them what would be a good name for a theme park ride based on the typical American's body?  Here are some of the best answers:

  • Sedentary Mountain
  • Cholester-Roll
  • Plumper Cars
  • Tunnel of Love Handles
  • The Tragic Kingdom
  • The Expanding Universe
  • SORRY—ride closed due to poor maintenance

How true is that!  Many of us, and that includes many Christians, just don’t treat our bodies very well.  We eat poorly.  We exercise little.  We don’t get enough sleep.  We gain too much weight.  We avoid the doctor.  And consequently we find ourselves—especially “folks our age”—tired, overweight, lethargic, and full of aches and pains.

Some of you may say, “Well, it’s too late for me to do anything about it.”  Wrong!  No matter how old you are, you can adopt habits that will make quick improvements to your health now and reap long term benefits for the future.  How much better if we adopt these good health habits when we’re young, but we can adopt them at any age.  

There are plenty of excuses.  Anyone can find reasons why they can’t do one thing or another.  But all of us can do something.  All of us can eat better.  All of us can exercise in some fashion.  All of us can get age-appropriate medical attention (and especially with the advent of the new health care legislation).  Why would you not?

I’m almost 57 years old.  I can physically do things now I couldn’t do in my 20s and 30s.  And the best news about that is not that I can do a bunch of pushups or pull-ups or crazy cardio things.  The best news about that is that I am strong enough to serve the Lord with energy and vitality and focus.  See, it’s more than a matter of looking good and feeling good; it’s a matter of Christian stewardship.

A lot of people have illnesses that won’t allow them to do the things they once could do.  That’s just one of life’s sad realities.  But if you are reasonably healthy, you have no excuse but to take better care of your body.  Paul wrote, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).  Sure, godliness is better.  And yes, as some wag once pointed out, “The only real value in exercise is that you die healthier.”  But there is “some value” in physical training, and it has a godly dimension too.  Embrace that value.

I have.  You can too.  One of these days, my body will get sick or break down in dramatic ways I can’t control that may limit what I can do physically.  I can accept that.  But I also can say this: even when that day comes, I won’t go quietly into the night.  

I hope you won’t either.  

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