My dear friend Joe Barnett came across the latest actuarial stats. If the folks who compiled those numbers got it right, here in America today, a fellow can expect to live for 78.4 years.
Joe’s report got my attention. On the very day when I opened up my office computer and read the daily Pathway Evangelism devotional blog in which he cited that life-expectancy data, on that exact day — would you believe it? — I hit the 78.4-year mark in my own life.
If that data is accurate, as of the day I write this, I’ve been here as long as I can realistically expect to be. Any days I get beyond this one will be gravy.
Or maybe I should say that all the days beyond this one will be aimed inexorably toward the grave.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not complaining. So far it’s been a grand ride. And I don’t mean to sound the least bit morose.
As I wolfed down a sausage biscuit at McDonald’s, I scanned the obituaries in the newspaper. Aside from seeing that Santa Claus had died (the mugshot of one guy had him in his Santa garb, fur-lined hat, beard and all), all the folks were strangers to me.
I was surprised to see, though, that the obits were for men in their 60s. For some reason, all of them got cheated out of at least a dozen of their 78.4 years — all but one sweet lady who had made it to 102.
When Moses sat down to pen the famous 90th Psalm, he must have been going through a day like the one I just described. “Seventy years are given to us!” he reflected. “Some even live to eighty.”
Which side of 80 was the famous law-giver on when he wrote those words? I don’t think we have a clue. But, perhaps because I’m there, I think I hear a fellow who is still shy of 80 and hopes to get there.
Right when he’s dreaming of sticking around for another decade or so, Moses takes a more sober look at life. He confronts raw reality and admits that “even the best years are filled with pain and trouble.”
Most octogenarians will tell you that even the best years after the big 8-0 seem to be jet-propelled. “Soon they disappear,” Moses lamented, “and we fly away.”
God has been good to let me traverse this amazing planet for so long. I have no idea how long he intends to leave me here, but I intend to relish his blessings in every minute he grants to extend my stay.
Gene Shelburne is minister of the Anna Street Church of Christ, 2310 Anna Street, Amarillo, Texas. Contact him at GeneShel@aol.com, or get his books and magazines at www.annastreetchurch.com. His column has run on the Faith page for three decades.