At first, I thought I had sprained my little finger. It hurt when I used it for anything, but I couldn’t remember the point of injury. And then I eventually realized that both little fingers felt the same way.
“What a coincidence,” I thought, “but time will make them feel better.”
And then they started hurting a bit when I typed. At first I thought, “That’s a little poetic justice—that it hurts physically to rip these words out of my soul,” but after a while, the “poetry” got tiresome. At that point, I just started waiting (somewhat impatiently) for the injuries to heal.
Until my wife noticed the obvious.
The injury wasn’t outside; it was inside.
“You have arthritis,” she said.
“Not possible,” I responded. “Old women have arthritis. Not 54-year-old men.”
My mom started getting arthritis at 50 and has had it pretty bad, and arthritis is primarily genetic. I went to a doctor who confirmed my wife’s initial suspicion.
My first response, after it was confirmed was, “Marathons.”
If this stuff spreads into my feet or toes or knees or ankles, my marathon days are over. I’m training for the Munich marathon in October, because it finishes in the same stadium that Frank Shorter won his gold medal during the 1972 Summer Olympics. I was ten years old at the time, and when I saw a guy with arms that looked as skinny as mine actually win a gold medal in the Olympics, I thought, “That’s my sport.” It seemed poetic to run a marathon that finished in the same spot.
In light of the arthritis I had to ask, “Will Munich be my last marathon?”
Doctors aren’t much help. Half of them have been suggesting I shouldn’t have ever run marathons to begin with (I’ve switched doctors in the past because of that). But I’m relishing training for this upcoming marathon, in part because I don’t know if it will be the last one. So far, my legs feel completely fine, but after talking to my mom about how arthritis progressed with her, there’s a definite sense that I’m running on “borrowed time.”
In the same way as my marathon training, all of us are living on “borrowed time” in our marriages and with our children. We go from day to day, assuming time will keep rolling forward, but the reality is we don’t know, we can’t know, when the day will end and our marriages will be over. We assume old age, but we’ve all seen way too many marriages end much sooner with a car accident, a shocking heart attack or stroke, or sometimes an affair.
So let’s give ourselves fully to our spouses today. Let’s be as involved in our kids’ lives as we can be today. We don’t know if there will be a tomorrow. There’s no promise of that.
Is there a trip the two of you have been meaning to take together “someday?” Put that trip on a definite calendar instead of a “someday” calendar. Is there something you need to say to one of your children when the time is right? The time is right.
Don’t put up with a mediocre marriage if the mediocrity is mainly because of a lack of intention. If you and your spouse are letting time race by, stop in your tracks, reject the passiveness that is slowly turning you into roommates instead of intimate lovers and friends, and say, “Let’s enjoy each other today because we don’t know how many tomorrows we have.”
The passing of time and the uncertainty of time can be our friend, a holy companion, if we use it to live with a certain (but peaceful and restful) urgency.
In all your relationships, you are living on borrowed time. It may all end long before you were planning. In light of that, what should you do or say today?