Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A long life

We just got back from a very long drive from South to North, well over 2000 miles of interstate driving. If you did something like that this summer, then you know about the white knuckle adventure of going bumper to bumper with thousands of pounds of STEEL barreling down the highway at 80 mph. Then, there are the smaller, sleeker, lighter and faster models vying for road supremacy, piloted by frustrated office workers by day who become transformed behind the wheel of their new BMW or Jetta, or for that matter, even their Yaris. Zooming up on your rear end as you are trying to get around an RV with a bigger car than you are driving towed behind and carrying bikes, kayaks and bags that could not fit in the RV that is bigger than your house. The driver, channeling his inner Andretti, is about six inches off your rear bumper and flashing his lights on and off. As you try to maneuver around this RV that is the size of a couple of city blocks you see up ahead another truck in your lane so you are not going anywhere which does not please the idiot behind you who thinks you can't see him flashing his lights so he begins hitting his horn. The joys of interstate driving. When we finally get in the slow lane again we turn our attention to NPR. One of the stories we heard was about Google tackling death. Perhaps, you heard about the new project Google's innovators are working on. Last week Larry Page announced the launch of Calico - a new venture aimed at solving the dilemmas of aging and disease. The biomedical gerontologist, Audrey DeGrey is excited, he commented that we need a "bona fide rejuvenation biotechnology industry, providing people with truly comprehensive restoration and preservation of youthful mental and physical function however long they live... and one side effect of this advance is that most people will live a great deal longer than today and do so in the prime of health." Maybe so, but there are lots of ways to die that do not involve the dilemmas of aging and disease and I was reminded of these on the interstate this week. But, this post is going to talk about a different aspect of aging. On our trip North we visited with some relatives we had not seen for a long time. One relative was now in his 90's. His mind was sharp, his conversation intelligent, articulate and engaging. Physically, he seemed to be in good shape and easily got around without assistance. He wanted to tell me a story. I knew he had been raised in a religious cult that had had a very negative influence on his perception of all religion. He had never been to church since he left home as far as I knew. His wife was a devout church goer but he abstained for years which added up to many, many years of non-church going, as you can see. A couple of years ago he told me he experienced a desire to go to church so he visited about six in the community. Finally, he found one that "fit",  he said. He has been there every Sunday since and it has brought great meaning to his life. It took him a long time but he was happy with his new found faith. In my years as a pastor, I had not heard many stories like that. We often hear that older people are too set in their ways to change. Here was one older person who was not. So, when I heard on NPR about the new Google project to revive lives, I was thinking of this encounter with my relative. Technology may help us to live a longer life but it is faith that revives it.