All of the 10,000 people in America who turn 65 each day have wrinkles. Our skin is more flaccid. Our complexion is more mottled. Our equilibrium is more tenuous. And our hair is more scarce. The effect of aging on our appearance and our bearing is universal. No one escapes. Except by death.
The reason for this is that God has subjected the creation to futility (Romans 8:20). It is in bondage to corruption (Romans 8:21). Even new creatures in Christ groan, waiting for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).
In other words, when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, God established a connection between moral depravity and physical deterioration. He intended to make clear that, even if we ignore the dreadfulness of a sinful heart, we will not be able to ignore its witness in the debility of the body.
This is a hard pill for beautiful and robust Boomers to swallow. We have been strong. We have been pretty. Even sexy. And now we realize: We will never have it back. It is over. For good. Until death stops the process we will only get weaker, more wrinkled, more mottled.
Some of us cannot let it go. We resort to plastic surgery in the hopeless attempt to make the looks of youth last a little longer. An article in Psychology Today observes,
Cosmetic surgery is still on the increase throughout developed countries. . . The “looks industry” is alive and well.
But the fix might be more in the head than on the face. Joshua Zimm, from the University of Toronto and his colleagues published a study in 2013 showing that facial cosmetic surgery does not significantly enhance attractiveness and only reduces perceived age by 3.1 years.
The growth of cosmetic surgery is not a reflection of the increasing ugliness of people but a reflection of our increasing negative self-perception. The fact that cosmetic surgery is still increasing in popularity despite showing little positive outcome — objective measure of attractiveness or youth — points again to our desire to become perfect.
Adolescent in Our Thinking
In other words, Boomers don’t look older than previous generations. But we are less content with looking older. We crave the power and the beauty our bodies once had. We are, to a large extent, still adolescent in our thinking about our looks.
Let the Christian Boomers turn this around.
We have found the fountain of youth. His name is Jesus Christ. “He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). Our dying body is like a seed planted in the ground. “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:43).
Aging in Holiness and Grace
Aging Christians don’t stay beautiful and strong in this life. But they do become beautiful and strong in the resurrection. The implication is: Don’t pour your time and energy and resources into artificial aging inhibitors. Pour them into aging with holiness and grace.
“Older men, be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2).
“Older women, be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. Teach what is good, and train the young women” (Titus 2:3–4).
Don’t be part of the tragic millions who desperately try to look and act younger than they are. It is usually pathetic to watch. A deep Arizona leathery tan does not make wrinkled skin look young.
Because of God’s grace, aging is not only a witness to the fall. It is also now a witness to the power of God’s grace. For those who trust him, God has turned deterioration into dignity.
Let these markers of aging be your goal.
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). The real beauty — the real praiseworthiness in life — is not our outward appearance. It is our reverence for God. This is the real beauty of life.
“Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:17). Physical beauty is not a bad thing. But it is a dangerous thing — like wealth (Matthew 19:24). Let the loss of it make us humble. For humility is a beautiful thing.
“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31). “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29). The point is not that only righteous people get old. The point is that when a righteous life is crowned with age, it is a beautiful thing. A thing of honor, not shame.
4. Honorable weakness
“You have been borne by me [the Lord] from before your birth, carried from the womb; 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 46:3–4). God has carried us from the womb. We have never been self-sufficient. Now in old age we have the honor of making that crystal clear. The glory of a human is to be carried by God.
Consumed with Ministry, Not Mirrors
Evelyn Harris Brand grew up in a well-to-do English family. She had studied at the London Conservatory of Art and dressed in the finest silks. But she went with her husband to minister as missionaries in the Kolli Malai mountain range of India.
After about ten years her husband died at age 44. After a year’s recuperation in England, she returned and poured her life into the hill people until she was 95. She lived in a portable hut, eight feet square, that could be taken down and moved.
Her son, Paul, commented that “with wrinkles as deep and extensive as any I have ever seen on a human face . . . she was a beautiful woman.” But it was not the beauty of the silk and heirlooms of London high society. For the last twenty years of her life she refused to have a mirror in her house! She was consumed with ministry, not mirrors (see Future Grace, 288-289).
Be consumed with ministry, not mirrors.
This is what God, by grace, does with our aging. He takes the deep creases of our bondage to corruption and turns them into the dignity of spiritual beauty.
May millions of Christian baby Boomers show the world how the gift of aging is received.