I recently turned 50 and I'm thinking, "Man, I need to take better care of myself." Setting down the ice cream scoop and doing some sit-ups would be a great start!
There is no question that I need to develop a healthier lifestyle with better food choices, more exercise and a commitment to take better care of the earthen vessel God gave me to use for a while. However, I am not going to concern myself too much with how I look because the fact is this earthen vessel is really on its way out.
While I've never been thrilled with the idea of growing old, I've never stressed out about it. At least, not enough to do anything about it. I mean, sure, if someone makes eye-contact with me, I WILL complain to them that my face is so criss-crossed with dry, little wrinkles I look like a Triscuit.
Ultimately, though, I know my looks are so unimportant. Of course, this is not astounding news to you. You are wise and well-grounded (and might I add, looking fabulous!) However, some of the more shallow of us (me), when hurtling toward 50 at breakneck speed, need a little reminder that there's more to us than that creamy complexion we once possessed.
When writing to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote, "Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day"(2 Corinthians 4:16 NAS).
Okay, the word decaying is a little too graphic for my taste. Makes me think of a real Egyptian mummy I saw on display at the Phoenix Art Museum and I am insulted by the comparison. Other than that, though, I find this to be extremely reassuring. While my outer swan is molting hideously, God is turning my inner ugly duckling into a swan.
As I was careening toward the end of my forties, I started reading a book called Pursue the Intentional Life by Christian writer Jean Fleming. She writes,
This can be my time of greatest growth in Christ, the final stretch to the finish line, a time to put away every stale and self-protective barrier and make a dash for the tape. My best years, my richest insights, a time of quiet fruitfulness, various and ripe - my deepest experiences of Christ are still ahead of me. This is my eager expectation. This is my time of ripened fruit and flight, living increasingly in the reality of the resurrection life, my heart and mind set on things above, earnest and ready, expectant and alert. (page 37, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress 2013)
This passage was inspiring to me. Not only am I not too bummed out about aging, now I am actually excited about the process.
Well, hang on a sec. This is probably a good time to mention that if I ever suggest that I know the correct way to approach a situation, you should know that I have already failed or am currently failing at that very thing. I am never coming from a place of polished, put-together, wink-at-the-camera confidence. It's always more of a I'm-running-late, can't-find-my-other-shoe, frizzy-haired desperation kind of thing. And if I ever briefly forget that and think I've got something all together, rest assured, I will soon do a face plant.
For example, I felt pretty darn smug about writing this blog post, thinking that I had a masterful grip on this inner beauty vs. outer beauty concept until just the other day. I was about to enter the doors to my school when I almost bumped into this squat old lady coming out. I saw her through the glass doors, poor thing. She looked like Humpty Dumpty's grandma sporting a bad haircut.
Of course, I realized with horror that it was actually my reflection. Suddenly, my peace with aging, just like an inattentive bird barreling into a freshly-Windexed patio door, once again smacked up against that reflection and was knocked out cold. I sometimes have to give that bird some brisk smacks in the face to revive her and remind her that a few wrinkles are nothing when compared to what is ahead of us...growing wisdom, more time to become more closely acquainted with Jesus and the opportunity to model to my kids how to truly grow old gracefully.
Yes, it might behoove me to invest in a tub of anti-wrinkle cream but there is only so much I can do to combat the force of gravity. The spider veins are going to keep multiplying and my hair is probably going to get thinner. So no matter how much effort I put into any kind of physical makeover, my looks are only going to go downhill from here. But my spirit! That is something that God will be beautifying for the rest of my life! And I am excited about it!