Monday, April 29, 2013

Outlasting Your Pacemaker

Here's my favorite recent story about longevity.  Two weeks ago, I met a man who is 97 years old.  He is in very good health, considering he has almost lived for an entire century (for example, I am shy of this man's age by 10 years and half of a century, and I wouldn't want to arm wrestle this fella...).  But here's the thing that blew me away.  My friend just had a new pacemaker implanted a month ago.  It turns out that when he was 77 years old, he had a pace maker put in.  Pacemakers (usually made by Medtronics in Minneapolis...I played bagpipes once for one of their corporate parties, but I digress), have a life span of 20 years.  Most people have pacemakers implanted in their late 70's, and the theory goes that most people won't last as long as their pacemaker, so why bother with a longevity of more than 20 years on them.  But not my friend.  He's in tip top shape, and told me that he looks forward to getting another pacemaker put in in 20 years - the age of 117!!  (Can you say "Methuselah's progeny?")

There are so many directions we could go with this amazing story, theologically.  We could talk about the way that human desire and will always out-trumps science and technology.  We could think about how God does what God wants with a person's physical health and well-being, irregardless of what the intentions of doctors sometimes are.  We could speculate about how many beats the human heart has in a lifetime and that a heart that beats for God never runs out.  But what I want to think about for a moment is simply the power of eternal life.  The power that God gives all of us to:

Outlast our Pacemakers

Most of us live this life with an underlying sense that we will die someday.  It's not something that we think about everyday, but subconsciously this thought lurks beneath the surface of our thoughts all the time.  Freud called it a "death instinct."  Christianity, one might say, offers us a "life instinct."  What we are promised as Christ followers is that all of us have the opportunity to live forever with God.  That as our bodies continue to fall a part, that our souls, connected to God, actually get stronger, more lively, more agile, more passionate, more exuberant, more purposeful, more...eternal.  That though science continually provides us more and more ways of prolonging the physical, flesh, human parts of our lives, God's plan is that they will fall a part, and in the process of doing so, our soul's will continue to flourish.

(By the way, please see the recent cover of Time magazine and it's feature article about how the next generation babies will likely live into to their 120's...I thought health care costs were already will we care for people who live that long?  Oh well, it's probably not my generation's worry:-)

Here's my deep question of the week though.  To what extent is my 97 year old friend's heart deeply connected to his soul, and to what extent is it connected to his pace-maker?  In other words, what is it that is beating within his chest, ultimately?  Is it a machine, or is it something stronger, something more vital, something more everlasting?  Is my friend's soul the one that is making his heart beat, or is his heart simply a muscle that flexes and recedes, and blood flows through his body?

One thing I know to be true.  My friend will in fact live to 117 (And beyond)...pacemaker or not!

All For Now,

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