Embracing the shelf-life
They are digging big holes in our neighborhood, every yard gets one, to bury some kind of fiber or cable or whatever the miraculous technology is of the day. I’m certain it will make my already technologically advanced skills even so much more. I’m working on my attitude that the digging and the refilling and the redigging, and the orange caution fencing around all the digging, and the orange cones on top of the piles of dirt and rock are a small inconvenience for the 5g or 6g or maybe it’s time for the 10g’s – interwebs so fast that the things that cross your mind appear on your screens before they’ve even crossed your mind, because it’s already not fast enough?!?
My lingering annoyance may be because yard renovation. Many hours of hard work by one of the homeowners, wonderfully weird machines that come and pop corks of sod up every few inches and then slice miniscule lines cross-hatching with overseeds being dropped and scattered for future more beautiful places for Max to race around on and wear down. And of course the year of the lawn renovation is also the year of the fiberoptics that will even more quickly now advertise on my screens all the possibilities of lawn renovation.
I think human beings have been looking for the same kind of fix for ourselves. Out of all the things I don’t remember in history class, somehow I do remember Ponce de Leon’ search for the Fountain of Youth and being told it was on the island of Bimini. And actually humans have believed and searched almost since the beginning of time for something that would restore us to some former age we evidently believe was perfect. Some kind of easy fix with the promise of youth, health, and beauty forever. There are oils and creams and ointments and injections and surgeries that promise to make us appear ageless? I love Reba, I don’t love the botox or the plastic surgery. I love Meg Ryan, I don’t love the botox or the plastic surgery. I loved Kenny Rogers, God rest his soul, I didn’t love the plastic surgery. Are we really so vain? So scared of aging because it leads to the reality of our mortality? Will we really only like our actors/actresses, singers and performers if they appear to be ageless? What does that mean about how we feel about one another? About ourselves?
Make no mistake, I do want to feel good. I want to stay healthy as long as possible and be able to both receive and give joy in living and interacting and learning for as many days as possible. And somehow my faith tells me that aging is a part of the rhythm of how God created and is creating with us the value that each chapter of our lives may have. It does take responsibility on our part for how we face into the changes and some proactive choices about increasing our chances for good health. And finally, as one of my physician friends tells me, our parts are going to wear out. We are made with a bit of a shelf-life – perhaps with a purpose?
Henri Nouwen says in his small book entitled “Out of Solitude”: “Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our life. Joy and sadness live as close to one another as light and darkness, they are born at the same time. When you touch the hand of a returning friend, you already know that they will leave you again. When you are moved by the quiet vastness of a sun-covered ocean, you miss the friend who cannot see it with you. Joy and sadness both arise from such deep places in your heart that you can’t find words to capture them. But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our heart will be filled with a joy that no one shall take away.”
Every beginning has the likelihood of an ending. Every starting line of a race has the promise of a finish line at the end whether it’s 100 meters, 3200 meters, a marathon, or an ultra-marathon that may be 100 miles or more – there’s always finally an ending. Can we see that part of life as a gift? That our hello’s might not be as meaningful if there wasn’t the possibility of a goodbye, and that in every goodbye, God promises the possibility of a reimagined hello?
I don’t know if our lawn will end up looking like the fairway or greens at Augusta National, I’m not thinking they let good-looking dogs like Max run around there. I’m not certain if the holes and piles of dirt from the soon-to-be-excitement of the lightning quick fiber-optics will overshadow the attempts at lawn renovation and renewal. What I do know is that the sacred rhythm of life is a God-given gift whether we are excited receivers of it or tentative movers toward what is likely inevitable. However we choose to move through the days and years, God’s promise is that endings finally never have the last word. And that promise is nothing less, my friends, than grace!