Several years ago my sisters and I headed to the local mall with our young children. A large amount of space and few patrons made it the perfect place for us to get in some steps and let the kids get out some wiggles. Four of them toddled happily ahead while I pushed another in a stroller. A woman approached us with a kindly smile. “What beautiful children,” she said to my sisters, “and grandchildren!” she added as I went by.
My head snapped up and I looked around for anyone else she could possibly be talking to. Nope, she was staring straight at me. I was thirty-four. Sigh.
Five years later, this trend of appearing older has only increased. Several times a year I am mistaken as my daughter’s grandmother. I suspect at least some of this generational confusion is due to the increasing abundance of silver strands in my very dark head of hair. If I were to dye my grays it would probably help but sadly, I am “hairresponsible.” This is the technical term I made up for someone who has great aspirations for hair color but is wise enough to know she will not keep it up. I am certain that I am less offended to be mistaken for a grandmother than for a skunk so on I go, getting grayer and grayer by the day.
Despite my own acceptance of the grays, I have absolutely no opinion on whether a woman should approach her own aging “naturally.” Frankly, as women, we have enough pressure and social rules on our conduct and appearance. You do you. Truly, I do not give one flying luxurious hair flip what you do with your grays.
You know what I actually do care about? Whether or not we recognize and speak with affirmation regarding the years that brought those gray hairs into existence. Unlike our cultural narrative, God’s Word stands in contrast to our often negative view of aging. He tells us that the years He gives us are a gift, not a curse.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4 (NIV)
The longer we live, the more opportunity we have to recognize that all the other stuff we put our trust in eventually fails. Our experiences teach us that it is Him, and Him alone, who sustains us through everything life may bring. The years He gives us are a gift to help us narrow our worship to the only thing that really matters.
“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” Job 12:12 (NIV)
God’s Word tells us that some wisdom can only come through lived experience. The longer we live, the more time we have to grow in our understanding of what really matters. We learn how the world works and how to proceed wisely in ways we simply could not understand when we were younger. The wisdom we gain over the course of our lives is of great value.
So why does it matter that we get our minds right about aging? For two really important women.
You, and the one who is watching you.
For you, seeing aging through God’s eyes helps you live more fully in your design. When you recognize the value in your years you are much more likely to step into the work He calls you to even when convention may say you are past your usefulness. What sadness it would be if we missed great adventures in our golden years because we believed the lie that our necessity had passed.
And that young woman who is watching you? She is listening. She hears how we talk about ourselves and how we categorize our lives as we get older. She learns from us whether the years ahead are something to look forward to, something that adds value to life, or if aging is something to be feared. She learns from us whether she can continue to have purpose with God as the years pass. She learns from us whether or not she can be an older woman who contributes, a woman who matters. It is with our own voice that we have the choice to speak life into her years we will not be around to see. Sharing God’s truth about what it means to be an aging woman is an incredible part of our legacy.
And so my sisters may we use our aging voices well. For them. For us. For the beautiful parts we all play in His design. Let us understand aging in a way that lets us do our job well ALL the way until our job is done. There is much He has for you.