Have you heard about telomeres?
A telomere is “a region of repetitive DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes” (Wikipedia). Hmm.
Telomeres, it seems, are sort of like tails on the ends of our chromosomes. Like the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces, they keep our chromosomes from “fraying” and may have a lot to do with how we age. Young people have the longest telomeres. Their bodies are better able to fight off the effects of aging, such as weakening immune systems, etc. And so, may your chromosomes prosper and their telomeres be long!
A recent morning show segment on telomeres was interesting (and kind of funny). The doctor/reporter gal had made arrangements to have her telomeres tested. (Yes, you can, too, for $249.) They were revealing the results (eight percent margin of error) live on national TV.
Her physical age was on a chart. We waited for her “telomere age” to be banged up there on the same chart. (Yes, how heart-warming to a 54-year-old like me if his telomeres turned out to be what you’d expect in a 45-year-old!)
The doc was 59 (if she was honest), and we watched as her “telomere age” was revealed. Good news! It was a round number. Bad news! It was 70!
She took it pretty womanfully, I guess. She managed to get the words out, “Well, I’m not all that surprised.” Oh, but she looked surprised. She looked like she was trying her best to breathe even though she’d just inhaled a golf ball!
Having recovered somewhat for the camera, she then betrayed, I think, both the arrogance common age-long to the human race, and the particularly striking arrogance of our time. She said, “Well, I’m not too surprised. I grew up in a home with second-hand smoke, and I partied too much sometimes in college.” But since then, she allowed as how she’d lived “a good life.” She didn’t mean morally. She just meant she’d been very serious about stuff like never drinking milk a cow would actually claim, etc.
Well, living smarter will probably help you live longer (and the good doc vowed to be even more serious about it and come back in five years with longer telomeres). But I’ve got news for you: you won’t do everything right. You can’t. And even if you do a bunch right, life has a way of dealing with such arrogance. (The Greeks called it “hubris.” World-class pride.) You’ll slip in the shower and break your neck, or you’ll be such a pain in the neck that somebody will run over you on purpose and put you out of our misery!
The Apostle Paul is surely right: bodily exercise is “of some value.” But let’s be careful not to put all our eggs in this earthly basket. Besides, who in their right mind wants to live to be 120?
If we have no hope beyond this present life, then we’d better fixate on our fraying telomeres. But those who trust in God can live life with hope and joy, knowing that our life both here and hereafter is in good hands.