By Gary Hardaway
There is a website I sometimes check called “Dead or Alive,” a sort of Who’s Who that keeps track of the living and the departed. It’s designed to answer the question, “whatever happened to . . . (fill in the blank)?
Let’s say you want to know about the stars of the old TV series, Bonanza: Sorry to say, they’re all gone now. The massive Blocker (Hoss) died 39 years ago at age 43, of complications from surgery. Lorne Green (Ben Cartwright) was only 72 when he succumbed to pneumonia in 1987. Four years later Michael Landon (Little Joe) was quickly taken by pancreatic cancer at 54. Pernell Roberts (Adam) lasted until 2010 before cancer claimed his life at age 81.
The site offers another informative option: “Who have you outlived?” You type in your birthday and up pops a number of celebrities you have recently surpassed in longevity, along with those you are closing in on.
Macabre? Perhaps. But as you compare life spans with the famous or eminent you also learn exactly how many days you have lived on Planet Earth. On Labor Day, I discovered that my number of days stood at 25,999. Today, I’ve passed Number 26,000, I wonder: how many of those days have I used wisely and well? How many have I wasted? All that time is irrevocably gone now. How much was invested in worthwhile pursuits, and how much was squandered in frivolous triviality?
Today I kept these thoughts in mind. Early this morning I finished a 2000-word review of a profoundly inspiring book about Whittaker Chambers, whose heroic witness against Communism in the 1940s brought down a key traitor in the U. S. government and exposed 17 others. I hope the review moves many to read Whittaker Chambers: The Spirit of a Counterrevolutionary. Chalk one up for the worthwhile column.
I attended a meeting of Christian teachers at a nearby Christian school. I can’t say I contributed much, but I’m glad I went. I value my relationships with these dedicated folks. Next Tuesday we’re going to meet for prayer. On the whole, another investment in the plus column.
My summer job is over, and so today I applied for a more permanent job delivering and connecting oxygen tanks to patients with severe respiratory problems. When I apply for a job I recall the divine promise in the Psalms: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye.” My prospects for getting the job don’t look great, but that’s not my worry. My task is to seek; God decides what I should find – or not find.
As a young man I exercised constantly – basketball, running, hiking, and tennis. At age 41, in pretty good shape, I ran a fairly decent half marathon. But as the days and years have rolled by I’ve let myself gain far too much weight. Jogging became almost impossible. I’m ashamed to tell you how heavy I was.
Some time ago, I began to try to reverse the trend. I dropped ten pounds and then stalled for months. Lately I’ve doubled my exercise regimen. Today I walked (and jogged!) about five miles – for the fourth day in a row. More pounds have disappeared, and I’m picking up a little speed.
The Bible says that “Bodily exercise profits a little,” but godliness profits much. One is essential; both are desirable. For me, both now seem essential. Otherwise, I’ll pay the price – fewer days.
I read my Bible today – Isaiah 48 and 49, uttered by God himself through the prophet. I noticed a certain coincidence in the message: “I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” “Lord, take my hand, lead me on.”
Moses wrote, “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” My days are dwindling down. So are yours. When we reach zero, will we look back on a meaningful journey with the Lord or years misspent in wandering and wasting?
It’s 11:15 PM. This little commentary is done. And so to bed.
Gary Hardaway, is a freelance writer in Lynden, WA. He holds a PH.D. in foundations of education.