Aging. The connotations are less than pretty. The appearance of gray hair, the few extra pounds hanging on, the wrinkles and bags and saggy skin. And after three kids, suffice it to say that things just ain’t what they used to be in oh, so many ways. It’s not as though I was ever a great beauty, primping and waxing and shopping my days away, but as I approach thirty I am faced head-on with the ugly reality that I have been vain.
I have trusted in my youth, which is always accompanied by a kind of freshness and beauty even in the most homely of us. I have valued my outer appearance over my inner appearance. I have compared my own appearance to those around me just to make sure that I’m not the most unattractive person in the room.
The problem with vanity is that when the beauty (or perceived beauty) starts to decay, it feels like a betrayal. My body is not supposed to do this to me! And so the idol I’ve made of my own physical appearance comes crashing down, which leaves me in that place of humility again, realizing that the only One who will never disappoint, never betray, is the ever faithful God of the universe.
When I was in high school, a friend who treated me a like sister called me up one day. He said, “Carrie, I was reading in Proverbs and I wanted to share this verse with you. It says, ‘Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.’” (Proverbs 31:30)
It stuck with me. And it is finally starting to make sense to me, which officially makes me a very slow learner. Here’s what I’m piecing together: If it is true that beauty will not last, then the pursuit of beauty is akin to the hamster running endlessly on that squeaky wheel – the pursuer never really arrives at any destination though he finds himself terribly worn out.
This could be dark and hopeless if not for the second part of that verse. There is something of enduring value about the woman who fears the LORD. Put another way:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
All people are outwardly wasting away. Those who have been graciously given the honor to be followers of Christ (because of God's love and favor, not because I am deserving), however, are being inwardly renewed daily. The griefs that cause those wrinkles to form, the pain of childbearing which stretches the body all out of shape, the worries that spawn those gray hairs - they are all doing a good thing in the lives of sisters in Christ. They are teaching us to live in awe of God, to rely on His grace and supply, and identify with the sufferings of Christ. This is the reason I am happy to be humbled in the face of my own vanity.
Instead of making me more beautiful on the exterior, the process of aging and its accompanying wisdom is re-making me to look inwardly more like my Savior. And that is a deeper, eternal kind of beauty which I am delighted to discover will never fade or disappoint.