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 The Beauty Of Old Age

I was going to call this writing something bleak, like "adjusting to growing old" but I changed my mind! I am calling it "the beauty of old age," because the Bible speaks of it that way. God thinks old people are beautiful. Not just for their wisdom, either. For their gray hair! The Bible says so.

I pulled my long hair back into a pony tail today, and discovered, to my eye-popping surprise, that I, a 53 year old lady, had developed a deeply receding hairline, and more than that. The hair on each side of my temples had become snowy white! All this while I wasn't looking! I let my hair down again, and the blonde covered up the white, though there are increasing sparkles everywhere. With that hairline, no more pony tails for me.

But one verse comforted me.

The Bible makes it clear that God treasures the aged. In this verse, gray hair is even called the beauty of the elderly.

* The beauty of old men [is] the gray head. Prov. 20:29b

If God creates our gray or white hairs, and thinks that they are beautiful, why shouldn't we? Why aren't there more older people on television, and in ads, with beautiful, snowy white hair, like my father, and grandmother. Our society puts forth a view of citizens, through the media and the bountiful ads everywhere, using young bodies to sell things. This view would lead some to believe there were no people around, after thirty or so.

But when we are forty and fifty; sixty and seventy, we do not disappear. We have learned increasingly, over decades, and would have much to offer, if anyone wanted to hear. My mother, as well as her good friend, are in their mid-eighties, and my uncle, in his early nineties. My mother's friend still travels around the country, a vibrant, energetic, and captivating speaker, speaking at Christian conferences. She also brings young mothers, children and babies to visit and sing hymns at a nursing home. The old people are tender and thrilled, to touch or hold a little baby once again.

My uncle still sells the Sunday School materials that he and his sister wrote and published for decades. My mother still teaches piano and art lessons to children, in her home. These three are the wisest, kindest, most loving older Christian people that I know. But they are by no means unique or alone. The speaker's husband, who still has a beautiful voice, has a ministry of his own. He goes and sings hymns to cheer the people in his local nursing home. Older people are an enormous resource that goes largely untapped in this country.

My own dear father took great joy in helping and pleasing others. Even after his stroke, when he developed increasing frailty, and my mother could no longer care for him at home, he continued to cheer people. In the nursing home, at eighty-eight years old, though he could no longer remember many words to hymns, he remembered all the tunes. These he played on his harmonica, with the one hand that still worked. He pulled out his harmonica to cheer his visitors, and to cheer the people there. Sitting in his wheelchair, this man did not complain about all the things he had lost. He smiled brightly at everyone, and played to them. He couldn't see well at all, any more, but he knew when folks were sad. He patted and stroked sorrowing people's backs, to comfort them. I will admire him all of my life.

I have old looking hands. I first noticed that when I was twenty years old. I am also very nearsighted. But one morning when I was in my late-forties, I had a very startling experience. I woke slowly from a deep sleep, to find my hand on the pillow by my face, and I did not recognize it. This hand had all kinds of tiny wrinkles all over it, and veins showing. It even had tiny age spots on it here and there. It could not be my own! But it was. I was accustomed to looking at my hands with glasses on, and I couldn’t see all the intricate changes that were going on, until I got right up close with my own nearsighted eyes.

Why do we try to cover up our wrinkles? They are a pleasant sign of age, in God's eyes - because the signs of age are also signs of wisdom. Actually, wrinkles should be a triumphant sign proving that we have survived thus far, which can be very meaningful. Wrinkles tell a story about life - some faces are lined with sorrow, some with sternness, but the ones I really love are the ones that melt into ripples of joy. All the laugh lines in the cheeks, forehead, around the eyes - oh, the people who have spent much time laughing - what beautiful lined faces they have in old age! I just love them!

However, yes, it is dispiriting for me to notice things like sagging, thinning skin. I have always enjoyed running, just for joy. But the pleasure of running is now disrupted by my discomfiting awareness of the addition of jiggling and swaying parts, jarring and ruining the once-smooth motion. It is not possible to forget the previous years, when the body's parts simply moved together in one coordinated unit.

The good thing about age, is the higher likelihood that we may have attained some wisdom, as opposed to the silliness of our youth.

* But strong meat (spiritual teachings) belongeth to them that are of full age, ... those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:14 (the comment is my own)

Every night as I lie in bed reading a devotional, I rub lotion into my feet, with one foot taking turns rubbing the other. Then I smoothe some lotion on my legs, which have changed from their previously smooth, firm, soft skin, to a bit scaly, dryer, and thinner skin, that needs some help. I don't like dry skin, because it itches.

As the years pass, I will notice new changes. I will experience a weaker body, and less energy. I may have to pass through sickness or disability. But I will always remember that God sees me as beautiful, and the older I get, the more beautiful in His eyes will I be. Because God looks also upon the heart. All the things we have learned from and about Him; and the deep love we hold for Him, are remembered clearly in His heart, and are immensely important to Him. Let it be our sincere goal, to develop a closer walk with Christ every year; gain a few wrinkles from laughter; and cultivate a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, a quality of great importance.

* But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 1Peter 3:4

Let us wake on each new day, and thank God for it. Chase away dismal thoughts about stiff joints, and youth that has long vanished. Thank God for life. Thank Him for one new chance to do something for Him, if only to give a smile to someone who needs one. And then be very still, and pay attention. I think you will feel the smile of God, beaming down on you!

Claim this verse for your own. Affirm that it is true. Notice that it does not say "let us rejoice" - it says "we WILL rejoice." No questions. No ifs, ands, or buts. We WILL rejoice and be glad in it. For that is the will of Christ, concerning us. And God fills a rejoicing heart, with joy.

* This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psa 118:24

2004 Rosemary Gwaltney