I hadn’t expected that we would keep talking about that story and mentioning it to so many people. The story was told by my 92 year old mother’s congenial and knowledgeable cardiologist, during her annual check-up. To bring him up to date on mother I told him, when she is with us, she often experiences shortness of breath after walking to the car and getting in. “Should this be a concern?” He explained that anyone who is immobile for long periods of time, then does something that is strenuous for them, will have difficulty breathing.
But it was the story he shared next that got our attention. He told us about a study done with 20 year old college men. Picture guys who play football, run from one end of the field to the other and back, then do it again. For that study, those 20 year old men had to stay in bed for three weeks, and they could not get up for any reason, not even to relieve themselves. He was baffled by how they got those young men to stay put for three weeks, but the outcome was the clincher. And it was startling. They couldn’t walk. Even more stunning, it took a year for them to be able to walk normally. That clarified my mother’s shortness of breath, after sitting for hours. I have ruminated on that study’s revelations, and it has come up frequently in conversations. What we do or don’t do in the short term can profoundly affect the long term.
There were obvious implications for all of us. We will pay an enormous price if we never exercise. But there are wider applications as well. Spend little or no time with your spouse, son, daughter, parent, grandparent, friend, and you’ll likely discover there’s shortness in your conversations, a distance, nothing to talk about and little understanding between you. It may take months of hard work, with wobbly times along the way, to get back on your feet in that relationship. The short term softens or hardens the long term.
No doubt you’ve read, as I have, that one way to have reasonable hope of avoiding the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease, is to keep your mind working. Puzzles, a new language, learn to play a musical instrument, read, take a class, develop a new hobby. The mind will deteriorate if it’s unchallenged for weeks at a time. Short term investment makes for long term fulfillment.
If you want to discover and/or enrich a relationship with God, it will not happen without conversations with others who have a vibrant relationship with God. Finding and relating to God will be confusing and mysterious without reaching out and talking to God, including some quiet to see what thoughts and ideas come to mind. Think of that stillness as an interval to ponder what God may be trying to say to you or show you. Maybe you are confused about a decision because you’re not taking time to work through the confusion. God can help you with that work, but only if you let God help. If we never open a Bible in contemporary language, we eliminate a major way to discover what God is like and how God relates to people. Even with God, what we do in the short term sets the course for the long haul.
Distractions abound when I try to take some quiet time to begin my day reading and reflecting on how God may want to be involved in my day. Check the news. Send that text. Any new emails? Call that person before you forget. The short term is battling with the long term.
It’s a challenge to keep up with things we have to do to just live. Get groceries. Shovel snow. Pick up that prescription. Pay the bills. The insurance company notified me they will no longer carry that company’s policies; now I have to review their suggestions for a new carrier or find how to stay with that company independently. The light switch burned out on the back-splash; I have to find that rare switch somewhere. Four trips later around town I find it on the Internet. I need to return that phone call. The doctor said I need to set up a CT Scan as a follow up to my annual physical. What upsets me with these weekly scrambles is how those things get in the way of spending time with my wife, Mary, or checking in with one of our children or grandchildren.
If we don’t fight these battles for relationships – with God, loved ones, friends – we will sometime figure out, like those 20 year old men, we can’t walk anymore with the most important people in our lives. And it may take a year to recover lost ground, if we ever can.
That visit with my mother’s cardiologist – one more thing to do – offered me food for thought that I’m still chewing on. I call such happenings, God sightings. God sightings are always good.