Wednesday, April 01, 2009

If it Were the 1500s, I'd be About Finished...

Today I am 49 years old. I've had forty-nine April Fools birthdays, if you don't count that initial birth-day, and I don't remember not looking a trifle askance upon the fact that it always, invariably happens on April Fool's Day. Even in our Psalm reading, today we will just by God's timing be reading the one that brings some to call April 1 Atheist's Day: Psalm 14. Verse 1 says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good." All of which makes me look further askance at being born on that particular day. Being called a fool sounds somehow kinder than being called an atheist, because I think of a fool as not having chosen that role--yet Psalm 14:1 makes them one and the same. I'm thankful that being born on April 1 doesn't bind me into such a decision.
I have been doing all of this genealogy on Gary's side, and finding that most lives were fairly short, and I'll bet that 90 percent of them ended in the same town where they started. Very often, I notice, they stayed in the same town, probably the same house, for generations. I can only suppose that most of them never even ventured more than maybe 20 miles from home in their whole lifetimes. I picked a random page of 15 ancestors, and their average age, living in the 1500s and 1600s, was 50 years old. So I could have expected to kick the bucket at just about any time now.
So in comparison, I can appreciate that my life has been very rich. These people, living in one town all their lives and not having access to so many means of communication as we have now, probably knew extremely little about the world around them, about God's creation; they probably knew the same 500 or 1000 people all their lives. They may have stayed in the same church even if they found extreme fault with it, because there wasn't another for miles around.
So I just think of the wonders I'd seen by the time I was seven, when we drove across the country moving from Oregon to Indiana, stopping at various national parks and other scenic stops along the way, and by then I'd already had rich experiences in comparison. The farthest I've been from here in the Northwest is to Tennessee. Since then, I've been as far south as Floritos, Mexico, just south of Tijuana, and as far north as Lake Louise in Alberta. I've seen pictures of the Great Wall of China; just yesterday was sent e-mail pictures of Petra, in Jordan; I've even seen pictures from light years away in outer space. Who could have said that in 1500? Not a soul!
The conveniences we have in our home are things no one from the 1500s could fathom: telephones; electricity; running water; a gas fireplace with a remote (that still blows my mind); a television always armed with movies, news flashes, and obscenities; a computer that connects us to all the world, cds and radio that bring any type of music to please us at any given time; electronic games; a plethora of books; a copy machine/printer; a refrigerator; and a microwave. They may have had wood-burning ovens, but I know none of them had a microwave. Can you imagine bringing one to a king's palace in the 1500s and showing him (supposing electricity was available) how it worked? I think he would have thought it was the work of the devil and sent us to prison!
The best thing about these times, better than the access to travel, to information, and to conveniences and luxuries, is the fact that we are interconnected with so many more people. Maybe at times in a more disposable way, a shallower way, and that may be for the worse; yet if we are in unworkable circumstances, I think we have more opportunity to improve on them because of the way that our society is structured. Because we know more people than we otherwise would, we can share joys and sorrows, struggles and prayer requests more readily, and bear one another's burdens and rejoice with one another so well.
I remember turning about 28, being a working new mom with extreme anemia, and wondering how in the world my grandmother had ever lived to be 90. How in the world! I still wonder at it--she'd nearly died a few times, because of thyroid problems, and a wrong blood type transfusion, and being born a preemie in 1899. She was a survivor. And I have outlived the age at which my father died, by 8 years; the year I turned 41 I remember feeling very mortal, as if it were impossible to pass that age by and live on. I may have faltered along the way, but these days I'm feeling the potential to live a pretty full agespan.
Do I need to live much longer? Not if God wants me to leave. I can be content with the life that I have been given. I hope that if He leaves me here until I'm 90, that He strengthens my frame for it and provides financially; I don't see that I'm up to that otherwise. But life has been so amazing, especially when I compare it with those ancestors who lived in the 1500s. God is great, and we are blessed!
But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:5-6
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

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