There was a series of ads for a popular anti-aging cream a while back that ended with this tagline:
“I don’t intend to grow old gracefully. I’m going to fight it every step of the way!”
The line was delivered by a beautiful, feisty woman; one who didn’t look her age and one who, by her own admission, had no intention of allowing her beauty to fade as she grew older. This was ostensibly her main goal in life. As if wrinkles somehow negate a woman’s beauty. As if youth were a commodity more precious than experience.
But is it truly a measure of ‘aging well’ that we should remain unchanged by the passage of time?
Aging, and how (or whether) we change as we grow older, has been on my mind lately because I’m on the cusp of a milestone. As I’m a sentimentalist, this birthday feels like a significant event in my life; and, as with all such things, anticipating this milestone has caused me to evaluate the past and make plans for the future.
To me, the mirror isn’t the only place we should pause for reflection.
There’s so much to celebrate about the decade I’m leaving behind. In the past ten years I have borne children (I had only my eldest in my twenties); I have moved countries (twice); I have travelled (with kids!); I have studied (and I’ve been a student in the school of life); I have written (and been published!); I have served (and been served). I’ve grown. I’ve matured. And, most of all – I’ve softened.
I’m not just talking about the physical softening and the extra exertion of gravity on a body as it ages; I’m talking about a softening of the heart. The years have had a tenderizing effect on me; many times when my heart is full, so are my eyes. I no longer contain my emotions as carefully as I once did; I am no longer in such firm command of the inconvenient welling-up of love, or sympathy, or heartbreak. And yet – I’m stronger, too.
I’ve seen more death, so life is more precious.
I’ve seen more life, so death has more significance.
I know more about people, so I can relate better and sympathize more.
I know more about myself, so I can play to my strengths and work on my weaknesses.
And there’s more to come.
In the decade ahead, what will I learn, and how will I grow?
This is what I’m hoping for:
I hope that I will grow more tender – and yet stronger, too – with each year that passes.
I hope that I will reach out more to those around me; to shake off the guilt over what I haven’t done in the past and embrace the opportunities that present themselves in the future.
I hope that I will honour my belief in the paramount importance of Relationship by nurturing the relationships I feel privileged to enjoy, while also opening my heart to new friends.
I hope that I will be quick to listen and slower to speak; I hope that the perspectives of others will always inform and interest me.
I hope that I will continue to listen and heed God’s call upon my life; my time; my service; and my heart.
I hope that, while my body ages, I will continue to be renewed by His grace.
I hope that, whether or not I grow old gracefully, I will grow old graciously.
Maybe my reflections will give my friends pause to consider their own.
How do you intend on growing old?