Wednesday November 4, 2009
The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away, Psalm 90:10
Well, if you’re looking for a guilt trip here it is. If seventy years is our predetermined finish date, then someone needs to die early to let me live into my mid seventies. I’m not just living on borrowed time, I’m living on some-one else’s lost time! This psalm is attributed to Moses who lived to 120. Not only was his guess on his own lifespan woefully inadequate, he carried a bigger age guilt that any of us ever will!
I suppose pleading that we are not responsible for the death of some poor soul who has lost years to accommodate our longevity may assuage our guilt a little. Perhaps redefining seventy years as a “best before date” would reflect the reality of failing faculties and mobility and lessen the impertinence of extending our stay. Of course, that might give the euthanasia crowd reason to recycle us, suggesting that our use as a fertilizer is a greater good.
Well, if you’re not feeling bad enough yet, Moses has some more helpful news for you. The years we have are “nasty, brutish and short,” to let Thomas Hobbes paraphrase our text. You will all have had experience of this during your earthly sojourn to date and probably don’t need Moses to remind you. So if all the forgoing is true, why are we in such a tizzy about staying here—especially if over there is really our ultimate and preferred vacation spot?
Despite all the arguments for clunkers to cease and desist, an indefinable quality of life causes us to hold tenaciously to it. However old we are, we all desire to live long lives and death is an unwanted intruder. For all the guilt and burden of life, as long as I can stagger past seventy I’m not in a rush to have my heating pad unplugged.
In the meantime, reflecting on this psalm’s opening verse gives a hint why this life can still be pleasant and not just bearable: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place for all generations.” David, in his 23rd Psalm agreed crediting his survival in the “valley of the shadow of death,” with “you are with me.” May we all come to realize that the dark tunnel with him is a better place than on the mountaintop alone!