She was looking intently at me when she spoke. “Grandma, are you old? Because you have lots of wrinkles so I think you are getting old.” Her beautiful blues eyes gazed directly into mine. Completely matter of fact, she innocently gave voice to her thoughts.
I continued to braid her hair, thinking hard about how to respond. I admitted to my sweet granddaughter that yes, I am getting older. I told her that wrinkles are the blessing of a long life, but I wasn’t convinced.
She couldn’t possibly understand, but my heart ached a bit as I thought of my dear friend Sandy and my younger sister Teresa, who left us before time and gravity etched the undeniable evidence of age on their precious faces. I reminded myself to be thankful for the gift of life even as I struggled with the reality of her honest remarks.
Later, as I shared the story with my husband and daughter, I began to cry. Do you know what I’m talking about, the ugly face-contorting cry you never saw coming? My little chat with her had kindled feelings I’d been trying to avoid.
Reflections of an older woman have been popping up in my rearview mirror recently. The woman I face every morning as I brush my teeth can’t possibly be me, gray hair peeking from around her ears.
I’ve never obsessed over my appearance. I put makeup on and do my hair in the morning and walk away, rarely stopping to look in the mirror again. If I remember lipstick a couple of times during the day, I’m doing well. Maybe that is why I am so shocked when the woman looking back at me looks nothing like the woman who lives inside my head.
So why did her gentle observation touch me so deeply? With a house full of grandchildren, I didn’t have much time to think about it and I pushed the thoughts down again.
A few days later, as I polished her tiny little toenails, she asked again about my age, mentioning those wrinkles yet one more time. More tears flowed, but I quickly changed the subject to the perils of red nail lacquer. She didn’t even notice as I quickly wiped them away.
When the house was once again quiet, I looked for an answer in Scripture, the only place I trust. The people who love me want to make me feel better about myself; I needed to hear the truth.
Gently, the verses washed over my weary heart:
1. Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. – Proverbs 16:31 ESV
2. Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? – Job 12:12 NIV
3. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green… – Psalm 92:14 NIV
4. Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. – Isaiah 46:4 ESV
5. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. – Psalm 37:25 ESV
6. Since my youth, God, you have taught me and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. – Psalm 71:17018 NIV
Six promises – one for every decade that I’ve been given. I’m encouraged, but I still have wrinkles and the hair will only continue to turn grey. Absent a change of heart I’m destined to be sad for the rest of my life!
I discovered a beautiful series of portraits by Tom Hussey of older men and women looking into a mirror and seeing their younger selves. That is how I feel. The great news is that although my body continues to age, my spirit is growing brighter and brighter.
His light shines more every year I am closer to being complete and in the presence of my sweet Jesus. Even though youth fades, the glory of his light shines brighter. These promises encourage my heart and remind me of my true value and the legacy of faith I am building.
As I celebrate yet another year, my prayer is that although they are surrounded by lines, my eyes reflect his peace; that my face, although aging, will shine with the joy of walking with Jesus for many years.
“With long life I will satisfy her and show her my salvation.” – Psalm 91:16 ESV
Check out Tom Hussey’s photos here!