Morning by Morning New Wrinkles I See
By Sharon W. Betters
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her. My mother. But that wasn't possible. She had died a few years before. And yet.....I backed up a few steps and there she was. She was me! They say (not sure who "they" is) that mirrors don't lie. I was the one standing in front of the full length mirror. But my mother was the one staring back. No, this wasn't an out of body experience. It was actually a reality check - for somewhere along the way, my face had morphed into my mother's! Not long after that heart stopping moment, a friend saw a picture of me sledding with our grandkids and exclaimed, "I thought that was your mother!
I took another look at the picture and saw the resemblance. And I also remembered my mother sledding with our kids.
That summer I shared the story with my sister who sagely responded, "Sharon, do you remember how old we thought our aunts and uncles and grandparents were?" "OLD! Very old!" I said. "Well, that's how our children and grandchildren see us. They think we are really old because we are old!"
At times I've wished that my mother had kept a journal so I could know how she handled getting old. And not just old, but imprisoned by her body after a virus attacked her heart. Did she look in the mirror, checking for more wrinkles and slather her face with more cold cream, hoping to stop the onward march of time? Did she look at her high school pictures and wish she had realized how pretty she was then? Did she struggle to embrace the pathway on which God had placed her, a pathway filled with doctor's visits, long naps, little energy? The older I get, the better I know the answers to those questions, because I'm on a similar pathway. I believe my mother struggled, the same way I do, the same way most women I know struggle. And yet, my mother found a way to live life fully.
Her doctor once told her that if another doctor read her chart he would conclude that this patient was so sick that she could not get to the bathroom by herself. Instead, her doctor knew that my mother refused to give in to the limitations and learned how to use her energy in ways that created a whole posse of grandchildren who cherished every minute they could spend with her.
Our culture focuses on physical beauty and youthful energy, encouraging us to believe we never have to give in to physical limitations. We just need to buy the right products, go to the best gym, find the most effective hair products. This is not a diatribe against using such products or even plastic surgery. Those aren't questions for me to answer when they apply to you! But a sinister danger lurks in these advertisements. Discontentment plants itself firmly in our hearts and cultivates insecurities as we compare ourselves to other women, women who most likely have an army of stylists and boatloads of money to create and photoshop an illusion of eternal beauty and perfection. Proverbs 14:12 warns us that "there is a way that seems right to a [woman] but its end is the way to death." Discontentment is like a seed of bitterness that springs up and defiles many. Discontentment creates havoc in our relationships with others and with our God.
The Antidote to Discontentment
God tells us that as we think in our hearts - so we will be. Pushing our thoughts and behavior through a biblical grid cultivates wisdom, helps us see life from God's perspective. But the battle to think biblically is often fierce, especially when my body betrays me. Not only when "morning by morning new wrinkles I see" but when disease and an aging body create limitations in my ability to live life as I planned. When I feel imprisoned by those limitations I am faced with a choice. Choosing to think biblically in those moments urges me to remind myself that my "citizenship is in heaven, and from it I await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform my lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Philippians 3:20-21) the more I realize God is using the weakness in my body to remind me that I don't belong here. I've started telling myself that each ache and pain is a nudge from God, that I am on my way Home. It's in those battles that I must choose to remember that God is sovereign and I can trust Him, even with aging. The antidote to discontent is trusting God's sovereignty.
In his last instructions to Timothy, Paul gives us such good guidance as we navigate this season of life. Paul was in prison and knew his days on this earth were short. Yet, he doesn't speak of dying, he speaks of his departure. Though imprisoned, he was free. He finds ways to use his limitations as channels of compassion. He was lonely, but he was not alone. He was poured out but he was full. In my next post, I'll start unpacking this passage, 2 Timothy 4. Take time to review this chapter through the grid of growing older and you'll find the treasures of this passage are priceless as we consider what it means to grow up, not old. (Is that even possible?)
In His grip,
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