I’m nerdy enough to admit that the History Channel occupies much of the time I spend in front of the television. And despite the fact that lately it’s begun to focus more on the apocalypse than the past, it’s still quality viewing. You can learn a lot about the present by looking over your shoulder. You can learn a lot about yourself, too.
I spent an hour the other day getting a quick education on daily life in 1700s America. Fascinating stuff. It was a time when our country was wild and new, a land of opportunity fraught with struggle and danger. Much like now, I suppose. And of the countless facts the producers recreated and shared, one stood out.
Medicine in the eighteenth century was anything but modern. What doctors would call a manageable disorder today could have been a death sentence then. The diagnosis of many conditions and ailments was at best unreliable and at worst impossible.
Add to that the fact that the world was a violent place and doctors were relatively scarce and poorly trained beyond the few major cities, and you begin to understand why the life expectancy for your average American male was thirty years.
That’s right. Thirty.
That trivial tidbit was supposed to be filed away in the large portion of my brain reserved for useless information, but it wouldn’t fit. It seemed too important to be useless and too profound to be information. I couldn’t help but think there was something in that fact that should be held onto and pondered.
That God has His reasons for everything is something I’ve always held to be true. There are no coincidences, and nothing in life is an accident. If the history of our times are a story, then our chapter could only be written in this one part. We are all here, now, for a reason.
If God had seen fit to put me in this world three hundred years ago instead of thirty-seven, I would likely be dead by now. That’s a sobering thought. In a way, I’m living on borrowed time. It’s almost as if I’ve been given seven years that another me in another time would have been denied.
I’m wondering if knowing that piece of information seven years ago would have had any lasting impact. Would it have given me a needed sense of urgency in my life? Maybe. Maybe I would have seen those extra 2,555 days between then and now as the gift they’ve been. Maybe I wouldn’t have wasted so many of them.
I wouldn’t have spent so many of those days worrying. Wouldn’t have spoiled so many of them with anger. Maybe I wouldn’t have thrown so many of those days away by chasing the inconsequential pursuits of life.
We live in amazing times. Health care is no longer an art or a practice of guess-and-pray, it’s a science. Diseases are routinely cured, and even when they aren’t many who suffer from them continue to live normal and vibrant lives. Life expectancy is now over seventy years, and I recently read where babies born now can expect to live close to a century. In the 1700s I would be considered an old man, but in this century I’m still considered young and in the prime of my life.
But that’s no reason to gloat. I realize that now.
The quality of our days doesn’t depend upon their number, but the number of defining moments in them. Those moments when our sights are raised from the ground beneath us to the treasures around us, when our eyes are turned outward to the hurts of others rather than inward to our own, and when we realize for even the briefest of moments that the burdens of this world are as fleeting as the world itself.
We are made for more than we are, giants in small bodies. “A little lower than the angels,” the Bible says. The days that are bestowed to us should be treated as worthy of our standing. Our moments shouldn’t be regarded as more of the mundane, but as opportunities to grasp a little more of heaven and a little less of earth.