“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Joshua 14:10-15
The passage above is told by Caleb one of the spies that Moses sent into the Promised Land. As a result of his faith in the Lord, 45 years later he was given a huge chunk of land for him and his descendants to live on. That topic in and of itself is worthy of a discussion by itself. But I want to draw your attention to the part I highlighted. In this piece of scripture, Caleb is eighty-five. No big deal you say. Lots of people live to be eighty-five years old right? Sure but how many of them are “as still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out” forty-five years earlier. He’s just as “vigorous to go out to battle”. Again, forty-five years earlier.
Now, let me share a story of a powerlifting meet that I attended in Richmond Virginia. To be honest, I didn’t have a great day lifting, but that’s not the important or pertinent part of the story. What’s important is what I witnessed. I saw a man, older and in one of the middle weight divisions, I think, come onto the platform in nothing but a pair of old gym shorts, the kind you used to have to wear in P.E. class, a t-shirt and a pair of black high-top Chuck Taylor’s. He wore no belt, no squat suit, nothing but his “gym uniform”. That older gentleman deadlifted a little over 400lbs. He couldn’t have weighed more than 150-160lbs soaking wet. He didn’t grunt. He didn’t yell. He didn’t snort ammonia, which used to be common at lifting meets, before the lift. He calmly walked up, took a deep breath, packed his trunk and picked the bar. Then just as calmly, he put it back down again. I later found out that gentleman was in his 70’s. How many guys in their 70’s do you know that can deadlift from the floor at all, much less lift 400lbs?
The lesson that I took from that day, the lesson I took from the scripture above and the lesson that I hope to impart in this post is this: Aging is mandatory but physical infirmity is not. According to Dr. Walter Bortz, in his book “We Live Too Short and Die Too Long”, the human body should live to be about 120 years old. That number is shortened, obviously, by poor lifestyle choices, disease, accidental death etc. Now, compare that to the average human lifespan in the United States and you see men living on average to 76 years of age and women to 81 years of age. So what gives? Why the gap?
Well, it’s my opinion that for too long, we have been content to just chalk our physical woes up to old age. You see, I don’t believe it’s the mileage on the car that’s the problem in most cases. Could it be that it’s the amount of time since you last took it for a spin? Maybe analogies aren’t your thing. Let me ask it this way. Is it possible that as a culture we spend too much time in front of the television and not enough time using our machine (your body) the way the Good Lord intended? Is it possible that we spend too much time seated at a desk and not enough time on our feet? Is it possible that we spend too much time looking at a screen of some sort and not enough time moving or planning/eating in a healthy manner? (Side bar, according to Neilsen, in the first part of 2016, we spent a little over 10 hours a day on some kind of device.) (Side bar II, There’s another report saying that we spend up to 5 hours a day on our mobile devices.)
Is it possible that a lot of the physical ailments that we blame on aging are really just derived from our lifestyle choices? Hint… I think so. But it’s a whole lot more compassionate to continue to ask questions that will lead you to that conclusion. Of course I could just boldly declare “YES!” to those questions and tell you to get your backside off of the couch. But doing that just makes me a jerk. We need to speak truth in love folks.
So if you agree with me and think that it’s not the aging (chronologically) that’s doing us in but the lifestyle choices we make that age us (physically), what do we do? I don’t have a concrete answer just yet since I’m not in my 70’s like the man at the lifting meet. I’m not in my 80’s like Caleb so this is all pure conjecture on my part. But here’s what I think:
- We need to move more. I didn’t say workout here, I said move. We need to go for more walks. We need to take the stairs more often. We need to stop looking at moving as if it’s a burden and start appreciating the fact that we can.
- We need to make better food choices. Whenever people think about changing their food, they think they have to go on the latest “Tree Bark and Water Diet”. Please don’t do that. Just make better choices. Move towards unprocessed foods. Drink more water. Get more fruits and vegetables. Get some protein. Cut a few calories out of your day. You don’t have to take a scorched earth approach to your dinner table. Just try to get a little better all the time.
- You need to exercise. But wait didn’t you say above that I just had to move? Yes I did and now I’m telling you that you also need to devote some time to getting stronger and getting your heart rate up.
- Finally, I believe that you need a spiritual practice. I believe a relationship with God is a key to our longevity. This would include prayer, time spent in scripture, time spent with other believers (your tribe) and time in the presence of a spiritual leader (a pastor or priest for example). It might help you live longer but I definitely believe it will enrich your life.
Now before I go, let me be clear. What I am not saying is exercise, good food and the Good Lord will make you live longer. That’s up to God. What I am saying is that there is a better chance of having more life in your years if you do these things. I hope that didn’t come off as preachy as I didn’t mean it to be. But it’s something that I think needed to be said. Have a great day.