This morning I glanced in the mirror and couldn’t help noticing the changes the years, and gravity, have made in my appearance. For just a moment I felt guilty, as if I had sinned, somehow, by showing my age.
There is great pressure in our society to remain eternally young. When we don’t achieve this impossible goal, we are made to feel somehow ashamed of the evidence of our age. It is almost impossible not to buy into this foolishness. Most of us can confess to being influenced by it to at least some degree.
When I first crossed the threshold of middle-age and began to feel the changes in my body, I longed for a guidebook or user’s manual, something like Aging for Dummies, that I could consult to know whether each new lump, bump, bag, sag, ache, or pain was a symptom to take to the doctor or just another new reality in the natural progression from one life stage to the next. If I had found that book, I would have referred to it many times in the ensuing years, I’m sure. Perhaps such a handbook wouldn’t be necessary if we weren’t ashamed to share and compare the signs of normal aging with one another openly.
Most of us adjust to aging with resignation, but society makes it difficult for us to embrace advancing age with any enthusiasm.
However, no matter what the media tell us, old age is not a sign of failure. It is proof of victory. The senior citizens among us are proven survivors. I like to say that anyone can be young … think about it, everyone who has ever been born has been young, but only the lucky few get to be really old. Shouldn’t they revel in that accomplishment?
Old age certainly isn’t as pretty as dewy youth and it doesn’t have as much energy, excitement, or physical strength, but it does have experience, hard-earned wisdom, and, for many, a new-found release from the fears that go hand-in-hand with youth and insecurity.
Most importantly, the passage from youth to old age is part of God’s plan. It is totally natural. We can nip and tuck, inject and cover-up, gulp vitamins and exercise to the point of exhaustion, but age will out. These bodies weren’t meant to last forever. They are recyclable, biodegradable containers to carry our maturing character and spirit into the next great adventure.
I think we should all reject the cult of youth, begin to accept every stage of life for the joy it brings, and take pride in each year that passes. As those wise old Vulcans used to say, “Live long, and prosper.”
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.Isaiah 46:4