For the last two weeks, I’ve been out of my routine with pneumonia. It seems like every spring I come down with a bad cold or some other virus that makes me stop everything I’m doing and just “be”.
As I agonized over the fact that I hadn’t updated my blog, I tried to focus on what I might write. I researched the pneumonia “bug” and bronchitis. Was science and faith present in this? While it was all very interesting to me, it didn’t speak from my heart.
What kept coming back to me was my grandmother’s saying, “…its hell to grow old.” That spoke to me. But why?
It seems that every year I get this respiratory bug, it gets harder to kick it or it takes longer. I look in the mirror and I see the wrinkles that weren’t there twenty years ago (even ten, even five!). I take a step and I hear my “Velcro” knees and know the arthritis that’s getting worse will eventually keep me from doing some of the things that I love (if I don’t spring for the $20K per knee injections of my scientifically grown cartilage). I think of all the little aches and pains I didn’t use to have and think of my grandmother’s saying.
So why do we grow old? Scientifically, our cells have a lifespan determined by something at the end of our DNA called a telomere. Each time our cells divide, a little piece of that is lost, so that by the time we are old, our telomere is very short (read the following two websites for interesting information on the importance of telomeres: http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/T/Telomeres.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telomere). It’s like a time clock or an hourglass that gives us a certain amount of time on earth.
Remember the cloned sheep, Dolly? She seemed perfectly normal when she was born, but she lived only a portion of a sheep’s lifespan. She grew old quicker than she should have. Scientists studied this (as poor Dolly suffered) to find out that every time they divided the cells to get another clone, they shortened that all-important telomere that led to Dolly’s lifespan. They also used a six-year-old ewe to get the DNA to clone Dolly, so that ewe’s lifespan was already cut in half. That meant double trouble for Dolly.
So why was the telomere created? Certainly, our Creator had a reason for such a device. Why are we allowed to wrinkle, creak, and lose our faculties?
For Christians, pride is considered the root for so many other sins including lust, sloth, gluttony, greed, wrath, and envy. Where does the root of pride live? In our bodies. Beauty, athletic abilities, bird song voices, steel minds that can think through any problem, all of these things come from the bodies that our Creator has given us. Many times we are swept away thinking that we can accomplish anything…given the time…and we rely on ourselves to do just that.
But over time, we lose our beauty, our athletic skill, our voices, our minds. Each time we lose a piece of one of those things (or think we will lose it); we are forced to remember that we are not here forever. We are forced to rely on God.
I grew up watching the show, “Family Affair” and loved the movie, “Parent Trap” (the original!). I thought Brian Keith was fabulous. So it hit hard when I heard he committed suicide. Why did he do it? He felt like he was of no use, he was losing the battle with age and cancer. He despaired. He couldn’t release his pride.
Many people wonder why it is such a bad thing to rely on themselves. “God helps those who help themselves”, right? (That is actually a quote from Benjamin Franklin, not the Bible as so many people think.)
Yes…and no. The more we rely on ourselves, the less we trust God. And when we lose our balance on the tight rope of time, no one can save us but God. That’s where pride comes in. Can we let go of the pride and allow God to catch us when we fall?
If we are full of ourselves, then we are not full of God. Our motivations, our understandings, our works will all be marred by the stain of pride, not faith. The pain of this truth is the pain we all must bear if we desire more from ourselves than this earthly life. In order to offer ourselves daily to God, we must give freely of ourselves.
So now, while my bones creak and my eyesight wanes, I have a better understanding of my grandmother’s saying. I also have a better understanding of God’s plan. I can’t make it to Him with the weight of pride on my back. I have to let it go. Therefore, I’ll sit here with my cough drops, my tissues and my water, and consider the ways I can release my pride. So when I’m feeling better, I can focus on God’s plan for me with regard to this earthly life.
Now go wash your hands so you don’t get sick from this transmission!