A friend is having surgery tomorrow. Needs his meniscus repaired. He messaged me on Facebook a week or 2 ago to ask whether I thought he should get a second opinion. Because, after “this guy gets the MRI results he might not want to do what I want to do.” Which, I subsequently found out, was to avoid surgery and “just rehab the knee to make it work so I can run again.”
I explained what I knew about menisci and their pesky tendency not to heal themselves because they don’t have their own blood supply and rarely are near enough to steal from a nearby vessel. He thanked me and continued to peruse the online sites for orthopedists with extensive sports medicine backgrounds, shopping for someone who would favor a return to action, even if surgery became necessary.
He found said doctor. Tomorrow is fix-it day. Thursday begins his return to action.
Funny, though, through this interchange of messages I have heard the heart of this man. Mid 50’s. Active. Has an outdoor lawn business. He needs his body to work well. It pretty much always has. When stuff like this upends us it makes us face the reality that, with or without our permission, time marches on. Our bodies don’t stay young forever. At some point, we can’t stem the tide of age and gradual (if we’re lucky) decline.
Oh, if extreme illness or circumstance have brought us to this realization earlier in life, it seems unfair. And indeed, it seems to be. Still, for those of us who are given our half-decade of relatively good health and physical performance, we consider this a raw deal. Why can’t we slow down time? How can it rob us of all the good years we know we have left?
No one can slow time, except God himself. But I wonder if the myth we hold onto – that we should be able to – may be a carrot dangled by the Great Liar himself. “Ah, there’s plenty of time, don’t worry.” “Look how healthy you are, you’re gonna live forever!” “Oh, even if something happens, you’re strong, you’re in good shape, you can get it back.” “Pay no attention to Father Time.”
And this deception takes our attention from truth: we must use well the time we have been given.
We must care for our time. Our bodies provide a tangible sense of this and an active practice for this. Things last longer and perform better when they are well cared for. For the timid among us, that may translate into (self) preservation. A kind of “don’t sit on the good couch” approach or a “put it in the safety deposit box so it can’t get stolen” approach. For the bold among us, that may translate into 3 hour workouts everyday, every week until I collapse in exhaustion. Neither under-use nor over-use are good care.
Neither honors the gift – of time in a body for exactly one life. It’s meant to be used, but also maintained for optimal performance. God alone knows our optimum.
Our time in our body is finite. Bodies well cared for last longer and perform better, but use them we must. That’s why they were given to us. But responsibly, respectfully, and attentively. It’s a give and take approach. God has given, we take and give back. When something gets rusty or run down, we check under the hood. What we can’t fix with a bit of rest or a change in routine we get checked out by the best mechanic we can find. Then, we weigh their advice and choose how to proceed.
Sometimes, we have to downshift, and watch the newer, younger models whiz past us. Let ’em feel good about passing me. I’m incredibly grateful just to still be in this race, engine running fairly well. We do know how that worked out for the tortoise.