When I come to November in a year, something happens in my spirit. I’m ready to cozy down into warm sweaters and soft blankets. I love scented candles burning and soups simmering on the stovetop. It’s a time to slow down and reflect over the year. When my spirit is in a good place, my heart finds much to be grateful for. One thing that fills me with gratitude is the gift of friends—real life and blogging friends.
For the next few weeks, I have invited five friends I respect deeply to share stories and thoughts on gratitude in their lives. I hope you will join with me for all five weeks and share your responses to their words. If you miss a week, you can click Choosing Gratitude series to catch up with the other posts in this series. Will you settle in with me, with a mug of something warm in your hands and think on those things and happenings in the year for which you are grateful?
Marie Gregg and I met through the Five Minute Friday linkup some years ago, one of our blogs was usually posted right after the other’s. Over the years, I have discovered what a beautiful spirit this lady has. She is a deep thinker, passionate writer, and lover of God’s word, dogs, and young people (among other things). Her blogposts always leave me thinking. One day, I hope I’ll have the privilege of meeting her in person. Until then, I will enjoy her words on her blog. Please help me welcome Marie to this little corner of the blog-o-sphere!
As I slide into my mid-thirties, I notice more and more advertisements promising to delay the aging process. Lotions and potions for younger-looking skin. Hair dye to cover up those unsightly silver strands. Torturous devices labeled “waist trainers” to smooth out lumps and bumps. Magical, easy solutions for every Madison Avenue conjured problem.
Of course these ads have always existed; they catch my eye now only because I have joined the target demographic. I find it so odd that we are shamed for aging, as if we’ve broken the rules. As if we have control over the onward, relentless passage of time.
Four years ago I learned that we control almost nothing but our reactions to events. I lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to all sorts of machines. An ugly, fiery incision bisected my abdomen. The simple act of breathing brought tears to my eyes. My brain swam in a cocktail of painkillers, sloshing around my skull to the beat of the pink elephants that danced across my dreams. There was nothing pretty about the experience. Nothing to brag about.
The incision faded into a pink scar, some sections puckered and wrinkled. It still throbs with a dull ache when the weather is about to change. It has been joined by a few fine lines around my mouth and eyes. A streak of bright white highlights the curls that seem to grow more unruly every day.
I’ve had surgery.
I’m getting older.
Strange, isn’t it, that we are supposed to whisper such statements? Hang our heads. Try to fade into the background.
What if instead we believed:
The glory of young men is their strength,
And the splendor of old men is their gray head.
~Proverbs 20:29 (NKJV)
Every age is to be enjoyed as a gift from God. So what if our hair sparkles? Our faces testify to belly-laughs? We can’t fit into those jeans we wore in high school? We don’t run as fast as we used to?
None of these things really matter, because, while it is true that we are to be good caretakers of the bodies God gave us, we’re going to shed this skin one day (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). And it will be wrinkled, for sure.
In no way is it wrong to use makeup, try new hairstyles or enjoy putting outfits together. We simply have to remember that our value, our identity, is not found in our appearance.
Yes, I know that this statement is old, seemingly trite and passes quickly through our minds, but familiarity doesn’t negate truth.
When I look in the mirror, I am quick to zero in on what I believe to be my flaws, especially that big scar. “You’re ugly,” floats through my thoughts before I even realize it. But if I stop and think about it, that scar is a visible reminder of the goodness of God.
He brought me through that surgery. The little lines on my face remind me of movies that make me laugh no matter how many times I see them. The white hair a sign of another year lived, a year that was never guaranteed.
Aging is a privilege, something to be thankful for. We have no “sell by” date. This world might pretend that it has no use for those over the age of 30, but we know better.
We live by a different standard, the one laid out for us through the Divine inspiration of men scrawling on ancient parchment. This standard teaches us that, as long as we are breathing, there is a job to be done, a job designed specifically for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10). God simply isn’t done working in and through us—period.
When you look in the mirror tomorrow, smile. And thank God for another day.
Question: Do you struggle with aging? Why? What is one so-called “problem” (gray hair, wrinkles, etc.) that you can thank God for today?
Marie Gregg lives somewhere in the Inland Northwest with her husband and two fat, neurotic dogs. Her passion in life is to teach others how to study the Bible, that they may come to know and love the Lord more deeply. When she’s not writing, she spends her time gardening, reading and listening to podcasts. You can find her at her blog, Along the Way, or on Facebook and Twitter.
Marie has written two books detailing her journey with chronic illness. The Harm in That: False Gospels, Alternative Medicine and Suffering deals with the damage that “health and wealth” teaching inflicts on the ill, while Distant Lights: Poems Along the Way contains personal reflections and prayers.