Since late February, I have been healing from a radial meniscus tear in my left knee. It happened during a slow return to running while healing from sciatica in my right leg. I spent countless hours doing exercises, at home and in the gym, to strengthen my leg muscles around my knee and improve balance. After many months, I was able to slowly run three miles with reduced knee pain. Healing takes longer at my age, which frustrates me.
I am middle-aged and facing the reality of old age. My grandchildren already say I am old. My father and his two siblings are in their early nineties and suffer from various ailments. I see in them where age will eventually take me and there is nothing I can do about it. It is the way God designed creation. All animals and plants eventually die. Earthly living creatures are finite.
During my final year of work, I attended my employer’s Christmas party. It was a large gathering of employees, spouses, and partners. I sat at a large table with some of my management team. As I glanced around the room, I realized that very few of the attendees were my age. In fact, most were significantly younger, and I did not know many of their names. The London trading organization had grown over the past twenty years and the majority of my peers had either retired, resigned, or died. As my eyes scanned the room, I knew that my employment period would be ending soon. A younger employee would take my place. Employment is finite.
A few weeks ago, I visited Stanford University where my cousin and his wife are employed. They gave my wife and I a tour of the lovely campus and we went up to the top of Hoover Tower for a bird’s eye view of the extensive buildings and grounds. The weather was perfect with a comfortable temperature and a cloudless sky. We walked through the Hoover Institute and saw people working in their cubicles and offices. We ate lunch outside on the Graduate Business School patio. Students gathered around computers, and we overheard teachers discussing intellectual topics. I loved the university culture and thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to be young again and attend this great university!” Universities are finite.
People spend billions trying to appear young and live longer. Plastic surgery and dermatology are considered essential by those who can afford body-altering procedures. I spend money on gyms, running shoes, and bikes to keep fit. However hard I work at conditioning my body, it ages and loses vitality. I look and feel older with each passing year. My photos highlight this fact, and my friends notice my aging. Doctors tell me, “This is normal for your age.” This sounds fine except for the disheartening additive: for your age.
I recently had a discussion with church friends on death. We discussed beliefs about finite verses infinite (or eternal) life. Religions have different views on this subject. For example, Christians believe in eternal life while the majority of Jews believe that there is no afterlife. The belief in either finite or infinite manifests itself in our choices during our life on earth. Here are a few:
- Medical: prolong life in any way possible versus prioritize the quality of earthly life
- Psychological: anxiety about death versus peace with life and death
- Occupational: determination to achieve success no matter the sacrifice versus being part of a wholistic vocation
- Athletics: winning is the only thing that matters versus joyful competition
My faith teaches me that there is an infinite God that grants infinity to the faithful finite. Finite becomes infinite. Old and worn bodies become infinitely renewed. Pain, anxiety, and earthly matters cease, and love remains. A sinful world changes into the kingdom of God. This gives me peace as I age. The Apostle Paul say this so much better:
Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed., in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51–52, NRSV)