For many of you reading this, what I’m about to say is going to sound silly, ridiculous, or just plain superficial, but I’m trying to be transparent here:
In 4 months I will be turning 30, and I have been totally FREAKING OUT about it. I don’t know what it is about leaving my 20’s behind, but it’s been on my mind a lot. Not to sound dramatic, but I feel like I’m watching my youth slip through my very fingers!
One of the reasons I suspect that aging is such a challenge for people is that we live in a culture that values youth more highly than wisdom and maturity. Our society is enthralled by novelty and attractive images, but the knowledge and insight that come with years of experience? Not so much. As a result of this values system, we are inundated with commercials for anti-aging creams. We can’t go to the grocery story without crossing magazine covers of actresses who look 15 years younger than their actual age because of all the botox and plastic surgery they’ve received. And with all of those subliminal messages coming our way, it’s hard not to feel the influence. The cultural message is loud and clear: Aging is a frontier to be avoided at all costs, literally.
Well the other day I was talking to one of my colleagues about my struggle with aging and her response was a real blessing to me. She is from Ethiopia where she worked for Compassion International before leaving to pursue her doctorate at Trinity. After thoughtfully listening to my “tale of woe,” she countered with an insightful response: “Old age is always a blessing. Where I come from, many people don’t live past their 30’s. And when you look in the Bible, old age is always described as a wonderful gift from God. We must be grateful for the years He gives us.”
What a convicting word of truth! For one, she is right about Scripture. In the Bible we find verses like Proverbs 16:31, which reads, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” Old age was considered a sign of God’s favor and it was received with gratitude.
But in addition to Scripture, my friend’s reflections on her homeland were such a cold splash of reality. Too often my cares and concerns are nothing more than a sign of my personal luxury. I don’t have to worry about whether I will survive another day, so I miss out on the blessing each day affords amidst my self-absorbed complaining and absurd expectations. I don’t simply want life, I want flawless life, problem-free life, a beautiful life. When life doesn’t measure up to my superficial standards, I am ungrateful for it.
Oh how the world perverts our minds! Every second that we get on this earth is a privilege and an opportunity, yet the process of aging constitutes a genuine crisis for some individuals. I have been so spoiled by privilege that I have forgotten just how precious each new day, year, and decade really is. My anxiety about aging is a clear indication that I have bought into the world’s standards of value.
I may be nearly 30, but I clearly have a lot left to learn! Hopefully God will grant me many more decades on this earth so that I can continue to grow in my knowledge of Him. In the meantime, I aim to embrace the primary attribute of a woman who ages gracefully: gratitude.