"We'll do a biopsy."
They were not words I was expecting, and they made the chill in the exam room a little more tangible. On top of some of the other health issues I'd had over the winter, this was a little discouraging. Later, as I left the doctor's office, I thought to myself, "Well, that's the first time for that, and probably not the last."
While anyone of any age can require a biopsy, as we get older, it becomes more likely. As we move past our forties, the risk grows for conditions like breast cancer, ailments of the reproductive system, colorectal cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Changing estrogen levels affect our bones and the way our bodies work in general. It's about more than hot flashes and weight gain, although menopausal symptoms are nothing to laugh. They can be very difficult to live with.
Thankfully, my situation turned out just fine. But it could have easily not been fine. While I spent a couple of uneasy weeks, I needed that reminder that my body is aging. Everyone's body is aging, and everyone's body is ultimately vulnerable. God is in control of our bodies no matter how much effort we expend taking care of them. A woman can eat her gluten-free crackers and locally-grown chicken, jog five miles a day, never smoke or drink, and be a size 5 until she's 70 years old, but she has no control over whether she will be diagnosed with something serious. Modern medicine is great, but anyone can get leukemia, breast cancer, brain cancer, or any number of serious ailments.
God created our bodies, and he created them exactly how he wanted them to be. The Fall means our bodies will age and die. We will become weaker, and our bodies will change. As much as we would like to think we can make time stand still with the right amount of exercise or the right diet, we will not put off the inevitable. And why would we want to? Aging is a reminder of what is to come: eternal rest in the presence of God. That is something we ought to be longing for. Have you ever noticed how senior saints speak with anticipation about getting to heaven?
I'm not being prepared for eternal life on earth where youth and physical perfection are highly prized. I'm being prepared for my heavenly home (John 14:1-3). As I get older I want to be healthy and strong enough to serve while I'm alive, but I hope I am also becoming more concerned with dying well; with remaining faithful in the face of suffering, praising God with each day granted to me, and not resisting and railing at the changing nature of my physical body. This is a time to continue storing up our treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys. I can't stop my body from aging, but I can look for the opportunities to learn more about God and draw closer to Him. I suspect that this is a lesson that those with long term physical limitations and challenges have already come to understand. For those of us who have had good health most of our lives, the lessons are not as quickly learned.
As we move into the middle years, we should avoid the temptation to pine for the days when we were younger, or waste time and resources trying to stay young. It is a time to press on toward the goal for the prize of upward call of God in Christ Jesus, even if our bodies are a little creakier or a little heavier. It's a time to see the strength in Christ that is ours.