I’m 41. Forty. One. I am aging. I want to travel this journey with grace. Do you ever feel like it is impossible to age well in our youth-obsessed culture? Do you feel like you can’t keep up, or you are always having to get the next treatment or buy the next cream to keep looking young?
I know that 41 might not sound old to some of you, and to some of you, it might seem ancient, but I am starting to age without a doubt. Honestly, sometimes I look in the mirror, and I am shocked not to see my 25-year-old face staring back.
I spent a lot of my life thinking that most of my value was in the way that I looked and I still fight for the truth that my value lies in the one who created me. I am thinking a lot these days about how to age well because, Lord willing, I’ve got a while to go on this aging journey, and I am not sure I want to buy what culture is telling me about it.
Wrinkles and Gray Hair
I have wrinkles, and my hair is graying, and I am definitely not as lithe and lean as I once was. And these things can weigh on me if I let them. My thoughts about my appearance can send me down a sad rabbit hole wishing for what I used to have. So here is what common culture says I should do about it.
Spend hundreds of dollars buying every cream on the market to stop this from happening. Immediately. If creams do not work, head to Botox. If that is still not enough, there is surgery. Now surgery is ordinarily done to fix a problem, so wrinkles must be a problem, right? Or wrong. Did you know that in the US alone 14.2 billion dollars are spent annually on anti-aging products? What??? 14.2 BILLION.
Our wrinkles tell a story. They say that we have lived, smiled, spent time in the sunshine laughing with friends, felt the wind on our faces, stayed up nights rocking babies or worrying about a big project at work. Our wrinkles should be badges of honor.
“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” – Frank Lloyd Wright
Our wrinkles are proof of life. What if we all just celebrated each other’s wrinkles. Can you imagine a world in which we wear our wrinkles proudly, as evidence of a life well-lived and still going? I can’t either, but I want to.
Well, this one is tricky because it is somewhat trendy to have gray hair right now, but until recently, women would dye their hair as soon as they caught wind of the first gray hair.
My sister, who has been going gray since high school, has done such an excellent job of fighting what culture seems to demand. She has gotten more and more gray the last fifteen years and never dyed her hair, and honestly, she is stunning. But it was not easy for her to keep her gray hair in a culture that demands that we stay looking young as long as we can. My mom just let her hair go gray, and she is more beautiful now than ever.
Now, these choices are so personal, so I don’t want to condemn anyone who dyes their hair or gets botox. That is not the point. The point is to look honestly about what culture tells us and decide intentionally what we want to believe and how we want to age, instead of just going with the flow and believing that our value diminishes as our age increases. Charlotte Mason, a 18th-century educator and reformer says it so simply and so beautifully. “I am valuable because God made me.”
“I am valuable because God made me.”Charlotte Mason
That’s it. We are valuable because God made us! He made us just like we are at 25 and 40 and 70 that value does not change!
Taking Care of Yourself vs.Trying to Go Back in Time
I am not suggesting we shouldn’t have a skincare routine or eat healthy to maintain our energy. I think it is essential to take care of ourselves. The key to all of those things is that we are not trying to go back in time. I don’t want to be 40 trying to get back to 25 with all my efforts. I think it is important to ask the question with each beauty or self-care decision: What is my motive behind doing this? What is driving me to make this decision? This is a great way to check your heart and make sure you are not perpetually driven by what culture suggests.
How Should We Think About Aging
The directives from culture are loud and persistent. I don’t think you could go a day without running into a direct or indirect message that aging is negative and undesirable. We need another source of information. We need something solid to stand on when we are bombarded with this constant rhetoric.
One of the first places I go when I am challenging thoughts or beliefs I have is scripture, and if I look at what scripture has to say about aging and beauty, it is a bit different than the messages we get from culture. Let’s take a look.
Splendor of Old Age
The glory of young men is their strength,
gray hair the splendor of the old
Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
it is attained in the way of righteousness.
You guys! God calls gray hair a crown of splendor. Splendor! Do you know what the definition of splendor is? Splendor: of magnificent and splendid appearance. Now, who are we to disagree. God says our gray hair is a crown of splendor. It is beautiful, beautiful!
The Wisdom of Old Age
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly, and revere your God. I am the Lord.
I thought, ‘Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.’
Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?
Wisdom is another critical marker of age. I pray that my heart and mind are more and more aligned with God every day. How much more significant is the gift of wisdom than perfect skin? Let my longings be toward wisdom and not so focused on my outward appearance. Let’s practice rejoicing over the blessings that come with aging so that the weight of desiring youth does not pull us down.
“I believe the second half of one’s life is meant to be better than the first half. The first half is finding out how you do it. And the second half is enjoying it.” ~Frances Lear
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
2 Corinthians 4:16
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Aging brings the sustaining grace of the Lord. We can continue to trust in Him to sustain us and carry us. We get to trust that he is renewing us continually. Gifts far greater than youth, don’t you think?
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
And this last one is one of my favorites. Beauty is fleeting. We don’t have to try to hold on to it. The Lord doesn’t ask us to maintain it. We want to be women who are after the fear of the Lord. That is what should mark us—the fear of the Lord.
Print these scriptures out, write them on your mirror, rehearse them in your mind. This is how we begin to replace our thoughts with God’s thoughts about aging well.
Being Truthful about How you View Aging
The hardest part of this process for me was being candid with myself about how I view aging and how much I have bought into what culture says is aging well versus what scripture says is aging well. I have had some days where I am in a funk all day, and when I finally figure out why I can trace it back to my thoughts in the mirror that morning about my aging skin or thinning hair.
Being honest with myself was key to beginning to fight for the truth. Fight with me. Let’s not be a generation of women who succumbs to believing our value is diminishing as we age. Let’s agree with God that aging is a gift and be proud of all it brings!