I was having one of those days that every woman past the “big zero” is familiar with, the kind of day when you look in the mirror and don’t recognize the face looking back. Etched smile lines, forehead creases and whitening hair were not exactly the picture of radiant youth that used to stare back. So, in a very human moment, I raged at the seemingly unfairness of aging. Why did we have to turn into a caricature of our former selves? Why couldn’t we just look the same as when we got older? Why did we have to lose estrogen anyways?!
All day long, the Whys battled with the Creases until a break from grant writing and a walk to the market turned it into one colossal internal rant. Block after block, I went on and on, churning out my growing old struggles to my constant Companion, to my truest best friend, to my God. I cried out that it was too hard getting older, especially for women in a modern society that judges us first and foremost by our appearance. It just wasn’t fair!
Well, I was so wrapped up in my complaints to God that it was an abrupt shock when a man without legs came whizzing past in his wheelchair, just as I was approaching the corner. I don’t know where he came from, but it brought me to a complete stop with all of my self-centered gripes. It was then that I recognized how blessed I was already to have been fully ambulatory in my life. It made me feel very contrite for having been carrying on about something of such little value as vanity. My challenges could have been far worse.
However, God was not yet done with driving His point home. As I walked up to the corner and waited for the crosswalk light to turn green, I became aware of a fellow pedestrian dressed in a black hoodie and black jeans standing in front of me. What really first drew my attention was the flickering of white hair that carried past the tightly drawn hood. It was mesmerizing. Entranced, I watched as a very pale, slender and smooth hand reached up to tuck the stray strands back in. Now, I have always been very fair-skinned in my life, but this hand surpassed even my peak-winter whiteness. Just before the light changed colors, the pedestrian looked to the left just long enough to reveal a slight glimpse of an albino face and eye. Then, before the vision fully registered in my brain, the pedestrian crossed to the left and disappeared into the crowd.
I crossed the street feeling fully reprimanded for not appreciating my lifetime of blessings and appearance. The young pedestrian in the black hoodie was not only living with white hair at a tender age, but also faced a lifetime of societal gawking for looking so different, while at the same time being subjected to the harsh effects of the sun and environment. My aging challenges were nothing in comparison.
My first reaction of “but for the grace of God, go I” soon became the understanding that it is “for and because of the grace of God, go I.” Much contemplation of those moments on the street corner has culminated in remembering that I was created for the pleasure of God and not for my own. Furthermore, that it might just be that God enjoys us for all of the stages and changes in our lives, and that God loves us just as He created us. So, with a complete change in attitude, I am striving to embrace my physical changes in accordance with and because of His grace.