Here’s one secret to ensure a longer (and better) life.
That promise on a magazine cover promotes purchases; people read that research and archive that wisdom as a constant reminder of better choices. It’s not buried in some research paper presented to academics convening in Institutes of Intellegentsia; those life hacks are the stuff of real people, looking for real answers. How can you outlive your classmates? What does it take to outlast your peer group? Why do some people go-the-distance, while others seem to leave too soon?
Ask the gerontologists who are evaluating those important questions, and their findings seem to be clustered under two collective headings.
First: maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get some sleep. Eat what you know you should. Drink in moderation (if at all). Exercise your body, habitually. Make moderation your measure.
The soft science addition: be part of a community where relationships create – rather than drain – energy. Within that community, share a sense of purpose. Make yourself an important part of other people’s lives.
Those are great, but there’s another layer of the exercise that the science crowd would tend to dismiss as too-far-out-there: it takes seriously a promise that is buried in a collection of writings that spring from honorable antiquity but are still regarded as authoritative in the 21st Century. The Bible makes an astounding offer that has never been rescinded.
Tucked between an order to take one day off every week – no work allowed, while you recharge your batteries and renew your relationships – and a mandate that every culture on earth still embraces (“You shall not murder”) is this imperative, with a platinum lining: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12).
In this era, “honor” has hit the cultural skids. It’s still the pretense for celebrities to gather in designer gowns and award statuettes of honor for best performance in fictional cinematic lawlessness and hedonism, while using acceptance speeches to dishonor people whose positions used to merit a grudging stand-upon-entrance recognition but are now the target of venomous vile. What is “honor?”
When the 5th of the 10 Commandments was restated in Ephesians, the Greek verb for honor is rich in clarity: to revere, prize and value. While these mandates were connected with fear as a motivator, God made obedience to this directive a qualification for a great prize: “…so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:3). Quality and quantity of life were both extended to the person who makes every day Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Next Sunday puts a spotlight on a key player in every person’s life. Fathers are disappearing from American families: currently, 21% of whites, 31% of Hispanics and 55% of blacks under 18 live in single parent homes, and the vast majority of those are moms, not dads. And that’s just measuring physical presence; emotional disengagement cannot be fully measured, but is a mounting malaise.
Fathers are honored in three categories: position, performance and perseverance. Their status as Dad puts them on top of the family chain of command, and honor is attached. “Because I said so” isn’t great team-building language, but it captures the reality of rank. Position warrants honor.
Performance measures dad’s ability to convey the blessing to his offspring. The reinforcement of a father, poured constantly into his progeny is a power source that is by God’s design.
Finally, perseverance wins the bonus round. “He was there for me” and “he had my back” may not make it into a Hallmark card, but that confidence is in the autobiography of the healthiest next-generations who never had to wonder if they had someone ready to take their call and to respond to a family 911.
Next Sunday: honor your father.Then, on Monday, do it again. On Tuesday, do it again…