It's been a while since my last post regarding an article I've read in Christianity Today, you're grateful for that, I'm sure. However, the January 2011 issue had one that I just couldn't resist commenting on. The article is called, "Chasing Methuselah". The title is followed by this question: "Exercise, technology, and diet help us live longer than ever. Should those who look to eternal life care?"
I would imagine that the author, Todd T.W. Daly, wrote the article in an attempt to answer that question. I suppose he did that. It's just that in my opinion, he answered that question best in one paragraph toward the end, and it took four pages to get to it. He quoted toward the end of his article a man named Brent Waters, quoting that, "It is eschaltological hope that enables Christians to consent to finite limitations, for through the gift of the Spirit, they have received the freedom to obey the constraints of their finitude, because these limitations have already been vindicated, redeemed, and taken up into the eternal lie of God." To that, I say - Agreed!
I have no intention of saying this was a bad article, or that the author didn't write it well. That's simply not true. I am actually not sure I'm even interpreting the article correctly - so that's my issue. I don't know if the author was intending to focus on aging and death as the end result of aging, how to slow down aging, or just how to cover it up as long as possible. Again, that's my issue(s). The author is much smarter, wiser, and well read than I. So why did I feel the need to write in response to this article? For this reason: I feel like the article lacked focus on what I believe to be the biggest issue facing Christians as we age. The same issue Christians always face - the heart.
Enter in my thoughts.
I've thought a lot about aging, getting older, wrinkles, sags, all around unwanted luggage. (Oh, sorry - the unsightly under eye luggage is called "bags" for most people, mine is a luggage set.) I've thought about these things for 3 main reasons. One - I'm woman....enough said. Two - I'm getting older. Three - I once made a living (scratch that - dreamt of making a living) representing a leading anti-aging company. I learned a lot about aging, and was really good at convincing a lot of people that I held the secret to their age not showing. After a while, this last thing began to not sit well with me. Why?
As a society, we have come to be so concerned, no - obsessed - with aging. Everyone wants to feel younger, feel better, look younger, look better. The reason I started to question this is because I didn't understand who the authority was on "better". And why? So I hit the pause button on this pursuit of forever youthfulness, and searched my heart. That's what I would encourage all Christians to do when you think about these things.
Here it is. In our pursuit of forever youthfulness, no one is growing up. In our desire to look like the air-brushed supermodel, or the 20 year old next door, we've placed un-attainable expectations on ourselves (and sadly, on our daughters and sons). The list goes on. But really, in the end, I believe that our culture has lost a value of aging and elders that the Bible so clearly honors. We can't very well expect our youth to respect their elders, when the elders don't respect the fact that they are elderly. (AKA - Old.) We can't instill in our daughters that beauty comes from within when we spend billions on making ourselves look ... beautiful? We can't train our sons that training the heart is worth a far greater prize than the body when we put more focus on training the body.
Women (and girls) deal with eating disorders in mass proportions. Men are staying at home acting as teens until late in their 20's or early 30's. The Elderly refuse to admit that their elderly (aka: old) and are not doing well in preparing their family to take care of them. (And I would even say are often times making things worse for the next generation in not taking heed when they are urged to "slow down". Different blog post maybe...)
So then what is the heart issue? Yes, the author of the CT article was correct. If we have eternity to look forward to, aging should not hold such priority. I don't know what anyone's heart issue is or isn't. But what I do know is this. I like to (try to) look pretty. I like it because my husband likes it. I like it because the wife of his youth has to fight for his attention every day he turns on the TV, goes out of the house, turns on the computer, etc.... Thankfully, he's convinced me I've got a major lead in the fight! I like to (try to) stay fit, and (try to) eat well. I like it because it gives me energy to keep up with a lot of littles. I like it because the Bible tells me that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit - and I think that's cool, and worthy of attention. I like to use anti-aging skin care, because it happens to remain the only product out there that doesn't make me look like I just got stung by 100 bees. That's really the only reason on that one.
But you know what? What I like most is simply the fact that I'm getting older. Yup. I like getting older. I'm often amazed at how immature I can still be at times. Growing older will hopefully lessen those moments. I'm enjoying the wisdom that comes with age. I smile when I see a gray hair. I like salt more than pepper! Knowing that I'm getting older means that I have a lot to look forward to (both on earth and with the fact that every passing day brings eternity closer), and a lot to look back on. One day when my kids tell me I'm too old to do this or that, I'd like to think that I will take it as the permission I've always longed for - to sit back with a good book and a glass of wine. See, it's not enough to just have eternity to look forward to to say we shouldn't care about aging on earth. Because that wouldn't be practical when we are bombarded with anti-aging schemes at every turn. Nope. I need to be convinced in my heart that this is good, because God said it is good. No matter how much money or work I put into myself, my birthday will never change. So I may as well just accept it. I'm going to get old. Beauty will fade, my mind will go, my body will waste away. Those are the moments I can rejoice in eternity. But those are also the moments when I can ask God for the ability to age gracefully. For my daughters and for my sons.
May my heart ever long for this truth, more than any cream or pill, or even an extra day on this earth:
Proverbs 31:30 & 31
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.