September 9, 2009
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. - Exodus 34:29
Once upon a time, armed with a couple brushes and makeup cakes, I specialized in turning 20-year-olds into 70-year-olds.
My time backstage in the college theater resulted in curious, long-term fascination with age lines and facial features. I more than once found myself ignoring a professor's lecture to study his face - ironically, studying the faces sometimes gave me a clearer insight into who my professor was as a person, and what his expectations might be. I've carried that quirk with me as I meet new people at church, at work, or at massive family reunions.
Here's the thing - sure, everyone gets crows feet as they age, but only some people have the unique quality that upgrades the "wrinkles" into "laugh lines." The eyes in those faces possess a permanent twinkle that makes me wish I had all day to listen to their tales of dare'n'do. Other faces have the stern, vertical jowl lines indicating a person might not have spent enough time smiling. It's easy to spot the people who talk with their eyes just by looking at their forehead and observing how prominent the creases are.
Backstage in college, these observations played an important role in every theater production. As part of the makeup crew, my goal was to create immediate character recognition and visible personality for actors before they even opened their mouths to say their first lines. This was especially important when creating older characters. The artifice of the theater let me speed through the years and imagine - if this sallow character was 50, 60, or 70 years old, what toll would their personality have taken on their expression? Add a line here, a perceived fullness there, a slight curve or shadow, and my college-age friends would (in theory) walk out not as themselves, but as a visual portrayal of a character. The lines served as an outward sign of an inner temperament.
Theater makeup allowed me to put the habits of a lifetime onto someone for just a few hours. After that, an actor could just wash off the brown and crème lines and "old age" foundation. The rest of us wear - and are always creating - more permanent lines.
The visual character sketches I used to create constantly reminded me that people either get "better or bitter" as we grow older. Our attitudes and values subtly reveal themselves on our faces from childhood on. Dorian Gray was a caricature, but actions do tend to work themselves to the surface whether we want the world to know or not.
You can look around to see what a lifetime of self-centered crankiness will do to a person's looks. On the other hand, if your church is like mine, you can also find faces that show a lifetime of peace in Christ. Those faces - and those eyes - are tied to a world that has more than a few difficulties and anxieties, but that's not what shines through. It's the joy of Christ that gives those eyes a constant twinkle.
Intersection of Faith & Life: We ultimately display what's in our hearts right on our faces. Moses experienced this everyday truth in a supernatural way every time he spoke with God (Exodus 34:29-35), when everyone could tell just by looking at his "radiant" face that he had met with God. After his heart had been fully focused on God, his face reflected it. When people look at your face, what do they see? Are you building attitudes and character traits today that you want reflected on your face in a few years time?