Friday, June 16, 2017

Expiration Dates & Shelf Life

My wife likes to check all the food in our refrigerator for expiration dates. Likewise, she goes through my medicine cabinet looking for expired prescriptions. That's because everything material as a shelf life. It doesn't disappear with that date, it just expires.

My daughter's pug, not dog, you understand, died this morning.  Roscoe had an expiration date. Pugs have an expiration date of 12-15 years. Roscoe lived seventeen years. Although the lifespan of pug-kind averages fifteen years, Roscoe beat the odds. All along, I warned my daughter to acclimate herself to the idea that Roscoe's days were numbered. She expected his death each day but when he died, she shed many tears for her beloved Roscoe.

I love animals, not as much as her, but I still understand her pain. Roscoe now feels no pain, but Heather does. She hurts because of the good memories she is having right now, and that new memories will never be. With time, she will still miss him but the memories will be more pleasant than the ones of his ill health. Roscoe's shelf life was exceeded, but Heather loved him until his expiration date.

Manufacturers put an exact date on products, not because they will suddenly expire, but because they need to protect themselves from blame if the products go bad. They build in a safety factor just in case a particular product is outside the norm, and goes bad sooner than most. They use historical evidence to determine that date, and oftentimes the product is still good long after the label says it is expired! Roscoe was the same. He provided joy well beyond his expected shelf life. Now he has expired, and went to wherever doggies, oops - puggies, go.

Mankind has an expiration date. God assigned mankind's expiration date as 120 years (Gen. 6:3). That doesn't mean that all men will live 120 years but only that men can be expected to live that long. Just as pug's ages are numbered at 15 years, and Roscoe lived a little longer, he could not expect to live longer than that. Likewise, a few men early on, including Noah, lived longer than 120 years, but throughout time, that was the limit of man's days. Moses lived to be exactly 120 years, setting the stage for the rest of mankind. Therefore, in the days of Noah each of our expirations were numbered:
Job 14:5 (ESV) Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, 6 look away from him and leave him alone, that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day."
Daniel 11:27 (ESV) "... the end is yet to be at the time appointed."
I am sixty-eight. My expected shelf-life is around 120 years if I live a righteous life. There are things we can do to prolong life. One is mentioned:  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (Exod. 20:12). It's obvious from the list, that peace can be achieved if we all follow all the commandments. Life can be prolonged by living according to God's will - sobriety and temperance in eating high up on the life style.

Although, I can live to be 120 years old, statistics point toward an expiration date of 76.5 years for white males in America. That means that I have slightly over eight years that I can expect to live because I shall die before my divinely appointed expiration date. Roscoe exceeded his expiration. I shall not. I really don't even care to! My life is fleeting, and it will speed really fast as my number of days approaches.
Psalm 39:4 (ESV) “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"
I began to die at my own birth. When I was born it was when God could use me. I was born because my parents were faithful. Their righteousness ensured my life. I am alive because of God's grace, and I will live a life until my purpose has been fulfilled. I believe as long as I do my job assignment (The Great Commission - to tell the world about Christ), God will have a use for me. If I cease my job assignment, and live for me, my purpose is no longer necessary. My life is dependent on how much I do the will of God. Then, when my shelf-live is exceeded, I will expire.  My time will have come:
Ecclesiastes 3:2 (ESV) "A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;"
I do things to live longer. I enjoy life even though eternal life will be so much better. The dread of passing over when the sting of death arrives is more fearsome than eternity. I don't deserve eternal life. My Book in God's hands testify to that, but my name is still in the Book of Life. My dread of death is on those who will hopefully miss me, and I may never get to see some of them. My thoughts right now are more on the destination of my loved ones, than on death itself. I love my children more than me so I worry more about them.

In writing this I have reflected on the fleeting moments until my shelf life ends. I will be long gone before I get to my expiration date. Any time after today, I live by grace because God still has a use for me. That is by grace that I live this finite life, and by grace I will live infinitively.

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